One of the most interesting properties of plants is their immense metabolic capability. Some of the most important metabolites of plants are pigments which aid in photosynthesis, many of which confer color upon the plant tissue. In this sub-project, we aim to alter the color of Arabidopsis flowers via accumulation of such pigments.
Our target pigments are two elements of the carotenoid metabolic pathway -- lycopene (red) and beta-carotene (orange). We aim to accumulate these compounds by using RNA interference to knock down enzymes catalyzing the steps in the metabolic pathway that use use pigments as precursors. We have targeted three enzymes for knockdown, and will express these knockdown constructs using a petal specific promoter to localize pigment accumulation
The vision for this sub-project is to not only produce an interesting feature, but also to develop a system in which we can color-code our constructs and provide unique visual markers for plants that express differing traits that cannot be detected visually. In addition, as many carotenoids are also important micronutrients, we may be able to use this mechanism to improve the nutritional content of target plants.