Engineered gray mold resistance, antioxidant capacity, and pigmentation in betalain-producing crops and ornamentals

Guy Polturak, Noam Grossman, David Vela-Corcia, Yonghui Dong, Adi Nudel, Margarita Pliner, Maggie Levy, Ilana Rogachev, Asaph Aharoni*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Betalains are tyrosine-derived red-violet and yellow plant pigments known for their antioxidant activity, health-promoting properties, and wide use as food colorants and dietary supplements. By coexpressing three genes of the recently elucidated betalain biosynthetic pathway, we demonstrate the heterologous production of these pigments in a variety of plants, including three major food crops: tomato, potato, and eggplant, and the economically important ornamental petunia. Combinatorial expression of betalain-related genes also allowed the engineering of tobacco plants and cell cultures to produce a palette of unique colors. Furthermore, betalain-producing tobacco plants exhibited significantly increased resistance toward gray mold (Botrytis cinerea), a pathogen responsible for major losses in agricultural produce. Heterologous production of betalains is thus anticipated to enable biofortification of essential foods, development of new ornamental varieties, and innovative sources for commercial betalain production, as well as utilization of these pigments in crop protection.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)9062-9067
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number34
StatePublished - 22 Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

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© 2017, National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.


  • Betalains
  • Biofortification
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Plant biotechnology
  • Secondary metabolism


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