Anthocyanins are important health promoting phytochemicals that are abundant in many fleshy fruits. Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) is one of the best sources of these compounds. Here we report on the expression pattern and functional analysis of a SQUAMOSA (SQUA) class MADS-box transcription factor, VmTDR4, associated with anthocyanin biosynthesis in bilberry. Levels of VmTDR4 expression were spatially and temporally linked with colour development and anthocyanin-related gene expression. Virus induced gene silencing (VIGS) was used to suppress VmTDR4 expression in bilberry resulting in substantial reduction in anthocyanin levels in fully ripe fruits. Chalcone synthase was used a positive control in the VIGS experiments. Additionally, in sectors of fruit tissue in which the expression of the VmTDR4 gene was silenced, the expression of R2R3 MYB family transcription factors related to the biosynthesis of flavonoids were also altered. We conclude that VmTDR4 plays an important role in the accumulation of anthocyanins during normal ripening in bilberry; probably through direct or indirect control of transcription factors belonging to the R2R3 MYB family
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