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Gene find unlocks potato coloring

Gene find unlocks potato coloring

Scientists at The James Hutton Institute say discovery could help breed new colourful and improved potato varieties

January 12, 2019
Scientists at The James Hutton Institute have unlocked the genetics of potato skin and flesh colour paving the way for new colourful varieties.

A new study identified a genetic molecule that regulates the production of anthocyanin, a natural pigment which influences skin and flesh colour.

Researchers also discovered previously unknown inhibitors of anthocyanin, meaning potato breeders could target these genes to create new colour combinations in new potato varieties.

Dr Csaba Hornyik, corresponding author of the study, said the work involved the use of a new layer of gene regulation to identify key genes influencing colour formation.

Dr Csaba Hornyik:

"Micro RNA molecules, or miRNAs, regulate many potato genes and can determine traits including disease resistance or tuberisation.”

“For the first time, we identified a specific potato miRNA strongly associated with purple skin and flesh colour.”

“Using molecular biology techniques, we characterized this miRNA and revealed the presence of another short RNA molecule in potato which was not described previously."
The research was supported by the Scottish Government’s Environment, Agriculture, and Food Strategic Programme, with the paper being published in Frontiers in Plant Science.
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The James Hutton Institute is an international research centre based in Scotland.