Regulation of fig (Ficus carica L.) fruit color: Metabolomic and transcriptomic analyses of the flavonoid biosynthetic pathway

Ziran Wang, Yuanyuan Cui, Alexander Vainstein, Shangwu Chen, Huiqin Ma*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

176 Scopus citations


Combined metabolomic and transcriptomic analyses were carried out with fig cultivar Green Peel and its color mutant “Purple Peel.” Five and twenty-two metabolites were identified as having significantly different contents between fruit peels of the two cultivars at young and mature stages, respectively. Cyanidin O-malonylhexoside demonstrated a 3,992-fold increase in the mature purple peel, the first identification of a major cyanidin in fig fruit; cyanidin 3-O-glucoside, cyanidin O-malonylhexoside O-hexoside and cyanidin-3,5-O-diglucoside were upregulated 100-fold, revealing the anthocyanins underlying the purple mutation. Beyond the visible differences, there was very significant accumulation of the colorless flavonoids procyanidin B1, luteolin-3′,7-di-O-glucoside, epicatechin and quercetin-3-O-rhamnoside in the mature “Purple Peel” compared to “Green Peel.” At the young stage, only cyanidin O-malonylhexoside, cyanidin O-malonylhexoside O-hexoside and esculetin were upregulated a few fold in the mutant. Transcriptome analysis revealed a downregulated expression trend of genes encoding phenylpropanoid and flavonoid biosynthetic pathway enzyme in the young “Purple Peel” compared to the young “Green Peel,” whereas significant and simultaneous upregulation was revealed in almost all of the flavonoid and anthocyanin pathway components and relevant transcription factors in the mature-stage mutant. The role of R2R3-MYB transcription factors in the color morph mutation and its possible relation to the activity of retrotransposons are discussed. Moreover, large-scale upregulation of small heat-shock protein genes was found in the mature mutant. This is the first work to reveal comprehensive metabolome and transcriptome network changes underlying a fig mutation in a single horticultural attribute, and its profound effects on fruit nutrition and quality.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1990
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - 20 Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Wang, Cui, Vainstein, Chen and Ma.


  • Anthocyanin
  • Fig (Ficus carica L.)
  • Flavonoid
  • Metabolome
  • Peel color mutation
  • Transcriptome


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