Changes in Anthocyanin Production during Domestication of Citrus.

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Mandarin (Citrus reticulata), citron (Citrus medica), and pummelo (Citrus maxima) are important species of the genus Citrus and parents of the interspecific hybrids that constitute the most familiar commercial varieties of Citrus: sweet orange, sour orange, clementine, lemon, lime, and grapefruit. Citron produces anthocyanins in its young leaves and flowers, as do species in genera closely related to Citrus, but mandarins do not, and pummelo varieties that produce anthocyanins have not been reported. We investigated the activity of the Ruby gene, which encodes a MYB transcription factor controlling anthocyanin biosynthesis, in different accessions of a range of Citrus species and in domesticated cultivars. A white mutant of lemon lacks functional alleles of Ruby, demonstrating that Ruby plays an essential role in anthocyanin production in Citrus Almost all the natural variation in pigmentation by anthocyanins in Citrus species can be explained by differences in activity of the Ruby gene, caused by point mutations and deletions and insertions of transposable elements. Comparison of the allelic constitution of Ruby in different species and cultivars also helps to clarify many of the taxonomic relationships in different species of Citrus, confirms the derivation of commercial varieties during domestication, elucidates the relationships within the subgenus Papeda, and allows a new genetic classification of mandarins.