Development of "Purple Endosperm Rice" by Engineering Anthocyanin Biosynthesis in the Endosperm with a High-Efficiency Transgene Stacking System

Mol Plant. 2017 Jul 5;10(7):918-929. doi: 10.1016/j.molp.2017.05.008. Epub 2017 Jun 27.


Anthocyanins have high antioxidant activities, and engineering of anthocyanin biosynthesis in staple crops, such as rice (Oryza sativa L.), could provide health-promoting foods for improving human health. However, engineering metabolic pathways for biofortification remains difficult, and previous attempts to engineer anthocyanin production in rice endosperm failed because of the sophisticated genetic regulatory network of its biosynthetic pathway. In this study, we developed a high-efficiency vector system for transgene stacking and used it to engineer anthocyanin biosynthesis in rice endosperm. We made a construct containing eight anthocyanin-related genes (two regulatory genes from maize and six structural genes from Coleus) driven by the endosperm-specific promoters,plus a selectable marker and a gene for marker excision. Transformation of rice with this construct generated a novel biofortified germplasm "Purple Endosperm Rice" (called "Zijingmi" in Chinese), which has high anthocyanin contents and antioxidant activity in the endosperm. This anthocyanin production results from expression of the transgenes and the resulting activation (or enhancement) of expression of 13 endogenous anthocyanin biosynthesis genes that are silenced or expressed at low levels in wild-type rice endosperm. This study provides an efficient, versatile toolkit for transgene stacking and demonstrates its use for successful engineering of a sophisticated biological pathway, suggesting the potential utility of this toolkit for synthetic biology and improvement of agronomic traits in plants.

Keywords: anthocyanin biosynthesis; biofortification; metabolic engineering; multi-transgene stacking; rice endosperm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthocyanins / biosynthesis*
  • Crops, Agricultural / genetics
  • Crops, Agricultural / metabolism
  • Endosperm / genetics
  • Endosperm / metabolism*
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Oryza / genetics
  • Oryza / metabolism*
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism*


  • Anthocyanins
  • Plant Proteins