Potato tuber skin and flesh colours are attractive traits for consumers and frequently influence purchase choices. In a new study, scientists of the James Hutton Institute have identified a genetic molecule that regulates the production of anthocyanin, a natural pigment which in turn influences tuber skin and flesh colour.
The researchers also identified previously unknown inhibitors of anthocyanin production, offering an opportunity for potato breeders to target these genes in new breeding programmes to establish new colour combinations.
Dr. Csaba Hornyik, corresponding author of the study, said the work involved the use of a new layer of gene regulation to identify key genes influencing colour formation.
“Micro RNA molecules, or miRNAs, regulate many potato genes and can determine traits including disease resistance or tuberisation.
“For the first time, we identified a specific potato miRNA strongly associated with purple skin and flesh colour.“Using molecular biology techniques, we characterized this miRNA and revealed the presence of another short RNA molecule in potato which was not described previously.”
This study reveals the complexity of the regulation of colour formation in potato tubers and provides insight for farmers and breeders into the regulation of key traits influencing consumer choices. Likewise, its findings may be useful for the development of new, improved potato varieties.
The research was supported by the Scottish Government’s Environment, Agriculture and Food Strategic Research Programme, and the paper “Potato miR828 is associated with purple tuber skin and flesh color“ is published in Frontiers in Plant Science.