Interlinking showy traits: Co-engineering of scent and colour biosynthesis in flowers

Michal Moyal Ben Zvi, Florence Negre-Zakharov, Tania Masci, Marianna Ovadis, Elena Shklarman, Hagit Ben-Meir, Tzvi Tzfira, Natalia Dudareva, Alexander Vainstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


The phenylpropanoid pathway gives rise to metabolites that determine floral colour and fragrance. These metabolites are one of the main means used by plants to attract pollinators, thereby ensuring plant survival. A lack of knowledge about factors regulating scent production has prevented the successful enhancement of volatile phenylpropanoid production in flowers. In this study, the Production of Anthocyanin Pigment1 (Pap1) Myb transcription factor from Arabidopsis thaliana, known to regulate the production of non-volatile phenylpropanoids, including anthocyanins, was stably introduced into Petunia hybrida. In addition to an increase in pigmentation, Pap1-transgenic petunia flowers demonstrated an increase of up to tenfold in the production of volatile phenylpropanoid/benzenoid compounds. The dramatic increase in volatile production corresponded to the native nocturnal rhythms of volatile production in petunia. The application of phenylalanine to Pap1-transgenic flowers led to an increase in the otherwise negligible levels of volatiles emitted during the day to nocturnal levels. On the basis of gene expression profiling and the levels of pathway intermediates, it is proposed that both increased metabolic flux and transcriptional activation of scent and colour genes underlie the enhancement of petunia flower colour and scent production by Pap1. The co-ordinated regulation of metabolic steps within or between pathways involved in vital plant functions, as shown here for two showy traits determining plant-pollinator interactions, provides a clear advantage for plant survival. The use of a regulatory factor that activates scent production creates a new biotechnological strategy for the metabolic architecture of fragrance, leading to the creation of novel genetic variability for breeding purposes.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)403-415
Number of pages13
JournalPlant Biotechnology Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Flavonoids
  • Fragrance
  • Petunia
  • Phenylpropanoids
  • Production of Anthocyanin Pigment1 (Pap1)
  • Volatiles


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