A phylogenetic examination of the primary anthocyanin production pathway of the Plantae

James J. Campanella, John V. Smalley, Maureen E. Dempsey

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40 Scopus citations


Background: Anthocyanin pigments aid in reproduction and provide ultraviolet protection to land plants. We have examined the phylogenetic relationships among the five primary enzymes responsible for producing anthocyanin pigment in its three major forms. Dihydroflavonol 4-reductase (DFR), anthocyanidin synthase (ANS), Flavonoid 3'glucosyltransferase (F3GT), flavonoid 3'hydroxylase (F3'H), and flavonoid 3'5' hydroxylase (F3'5'H) are responsible for the final steps in anthocyanin pigment production. Results: We were interested in how conserved the anthocyanin pathway genes may be among land plants, and evolutionarily how far back into the plant lineage anthocyanin production may be traced. The DFR, ANS, F3GT, and F3'H genes date back 450 million years to the first land plants. Mosses, spike mosses, and ferns express these four products, although there is no evidence of sequence orthologues for these genes in algae. Additionally, F3'5'H is not evident in organisms that predated gymnosperms. Conclusion: Our findings support the hypothesis that "blue" anthocyanin pigments did not evolve until 300-350 mya along with the gymnosperms, although the red anthocyanin pigments may be as ancient as the mosses (~450 mya).

Original languageEnglish
JournalBotanical Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 25 Jan 2014


  • Anthocyanin
  • Anthocyanin synthase
  • Dihydroflavonol reductase
  • Flavonoid hydroxylase
  • Glucosyltransferase
  • Molecular evolution


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