Achievements and perspectives in biochemistry concerning anthocyanin modification for blue flower coloration

Nobuhiro Sasaki, Toru Nakayama

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


Genetic engineering of roses and other plants of floricultural importance to give them a truly blue petal color is arguably one of the holy grails of plant biotechnology. Toward this goal, bluish carnations and roses were previously engineered by establishing an exclusive accumulation of delphinidin (Dp)-type anthocyanins in their petals via the heterologous expression of a flavonoid 3′,5′-hydroxylase gene. Very recently, purple-blue varieties of chrysanthemums were also genetically engineered via a similar biochemical strategy. Although the floral colors of these transgenic plants still lack a true blue color, the basis for the future molecular breeding of truly blue flowers is via the engineering of anthocyanin pathways. Anthocyanins with multiple aromatic acyl groups (often referred to as polyacylated anthocyanins) in the 3′-or 7-position tend to display a more stable blue color than non-acylated anthocyanins. The 7-polyacylation process during the biosynthesis of purple-blue anthocyanins in delphinium (Delphinium grandiflorum) was found to occur in vacuoles using acyl-glucose as both the glucosyl and acyl donor. Glucosyltransferases and acyltransferases involved in anthocyanin 7-polyacylation in delphinium are vacuolar acyl-glucose-dependent enzymes belonging to the glycoside hydrolase family 1 and serine carboxypeptidae-like protein family, respectively. The 7-polyacylation proceeds through the alternate glucosylation and p-hydroxybenzoylation catalyzed by these enzymes. p-Hydroxybenzoyl-glucose serves as the p-hydroxybenzoyl and glucosyl donor to produce anthocyanins modified with a p-hydroxybenzoyl-glucose concatemer at the 7-position. This novel finding has provided a potential breakthrough for the genetic engineering of truly blue flowers, where polyacylated Dp-type anthocyanins are accumulated exclusively in the petals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-40
Number of pages13
JournalPlant and Cell Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jan 1


  • Acyltransferase
  • Anthocyanin
  • Blue flower coloration
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Delphinium
  • Glycosyltransferase
  • Polyacylation


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