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Scientists genetically engineer the world’s first blue chrysanthemum

True blue flowers are a rarity in nature—they occur only in select species like morning glories and delphiniums. Now, researchers have created a genuinely blue chrysanthemum by adding two genes to the normally pink or reddish flower. The advance could be applied to other species—and it may mean that florists wanting to hawk blooms of blue will no longer have to dye them.

“This [advance] is of great impact,” says Toru Nakayama, a plant biochemist at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, who was not involved with the work. There are several popular commercial species for which no true blue varieties exist, he notes.

We all think we’ve seen blue flowers before. And in some cases, it’s true. But according to the Royal Horticultural Society’s color scale—the gold standard for flowers—most “blues” are really violet or purple. Florists and gardeners are forever on the lookout for new colors and varieties of plants, however, but making popular ornamental and cut flowers, like roses, vibrant blue has proved quite difficult. “We’ve all been trying to do this for a long time and it’s never worked perfectly,” says Thomas Colquhoun, a plant biotechnologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville who was not involved with the work.

True blue requires complex chemistry. Anthocyanins—pigment molecules in the petals, stem, and fruit—consist of rings that cause a flower to turn red, purple, or blue, depending on what sugars or other groups of atoms are attached. Conditions inside the plant cell also matter. So just transplanting an anthocyanin from a blue flower like a delphinium didn’t really work.

Read more at Science

Publication date: 8/7/2017



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