Molecules 22(8): 1364-1382 (2017)
Biochemical and Comparative Transcriptomic Analyses Identify Candidate Genes Related to Variegation Formation in Paeonia rockii
Qianqian Shi, Long Li, Xiaoxiao Zhang, Jianrang Luo, Xiang Li, Lijuan Zhai, Lixia He and Yanlong Zhang

Abstract: Paeonia rockii is a wild tree peony species with large and dark purple variegations at the base of its petals. It is the genetic resource for various variegation patterns in tree peony cultivars, which is in contrast to the pure white petals of Paeonia ostii. However, the molecular mechanism underlying the formation of variegation in this plant is still unknown. Here, we conducted Illumina transcriptome sequencing for P. rockii, P. ostii (with pure white petals) and their F1 individuals (with purple-red variegation). A total of 181,866 unigenes were generated, including a variety of unigenes involved in anthocyanin biosynthesis and sequestration and the regulation of anthocyanin biosynthesis. The dark purple or purple-red variegation patterns mainly occurred due to the proportions of cyanidin (Cy)- and peonidin (Pn)-based anthocyanins. The variegations of P. rockii exhibited a “Cy > Pn” phenotype, whereas the F1 progeny showed a “Pn > Cy” phenotype. The CHS, DFR, ANS, and GST genes might play key roles in variegation pigmentation in P. rockii according to gene expression and interaction network analysis. Two R2R3-MYB transcription factors (c131300.graph_c0 and c133735.graph_c0) regulated variegation formation by controlling CHS, ANS and GST genes. Our results indicated that the various variegation patterns were caused by transcriptional regulation of anthocyanin biosynthesis genes, and the transcription profiles of the R2R3-MYBs provided clues to elucidate the mechanisms underlying this trait. The petal transcriptome data produced in this study will provide a valuable resource for future association investigations of the genetic regulation of various variegation patterns in tree peonies.