The quest for the deep-yellow petunia

The majority of carotenoids in petals are xanthophylls and most of these xanthophylls are esterified with fatty acids. Although petunia (Petunia x hybrida) is an important ornamental plant, it cannot accumulate enough carotenoids to have deep-yellow flowers.
A previous study suggested that low esterification activity causes low carotenoid accumulation in petunia corollas. In a new study, researchers introduced xanthophyll esterase (XES) from the petals of Ipomoea obscura, tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), and marigold (Tagetes erecta) into a pale-yellow-flowered cultivar of petunia to see whether these affect carotenoid accumulation in petunia corollas.
Carotenoid contents and the proportions of esterified xanthophylls were elevated in the corollas of XES-overexpressing (XES-OX) transformants. Expression analysis showed that the transcript levels of endogenous carotenoid biosynthetic genes, which included geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase 2, ζ-carotene desaturase, and lycopene β-ring cyclase in corolla tubes were upregulated in XES-OX plants.
In addition, the researchers discovered a difference in the composition of esterified xanthophylls among XES-OX plants, which may be caused by differences in the substrate specificity of their respective XESs. They conclude that esterification is an important process for carotenoid accumulation and XES is a useful tool for the quantitative and qualitative control of carotenoid accumulation in petals.

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