Genes encoding chalcone synthase (CHS), anthocyanidin synthase (ANS), and UDP-glucose-flavonoid 3-O-glucosyltransferase (UFGT), some of the enzymes of anthocyanin biosynthetic pathway, were assayed in two different experiments using quantitative real-time reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR, in order to test their transcription levels in the flesh of blood and common orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck] fruit, and to investigate their role in anthocyanin accumulation in the same tissue. The first experiment compared a blood orange and a common orange cultivar during seven different fruit maturation stages. This was followed by the test of 11 different genotypes at the end of the winter season. Data collected from the first experiment, over the blood orange cultivar, were statistically analyzed using the Pearson correlation coefficient. Results show that CHS, ANS, and UFGT mRNA transcripts are up- and co-regulated in the blood orange cultivar, whereas they are down-regulated in the common orange cultivar. There is evidence of correspondence between the target genes expression level and the content of the pigment assessed. The second test confirms this correlation and shows that enzyme synthesis levels and pigment accumulation, in plants grown under the same environmental conditions, are dependent on the differences occurring among the genotypes tested. These results suggest that the absence of pigment in the common orange cultivars may be caused by the lack of induction on the structural genes expression. This is the first report on the characterization of the relationships between biosynthetic genes expression and fruit flesh anthocyanin content in blood oranges.
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