Painted flowers: Eluta generates pigment patterning in Antirrhinum.

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In the early 1900s, Erwin Baur established Antirrhinum majus as a model system, identifying and characterising numerous flower colour variants. This included Picturatum/Eluta, which restricts the accumulation of magenta anthocyanin pigments, forming bullseye markings on the flower face. We identified the gene underlying the Eluta locus by transposon-tagging, using an Antirrhinum line that spontaneously lost the nonsuppressive el phenotype. A candidate MYB repressor gene at this locus contained a CACTA transposable element. We subsequently identified plants where this element excised, reverting to a suppressive Eluta phenotype. El alleles inhibit expression of anthocyanin biosynthetic genes, confirming it to be a regulatory locus. The modes of action of Eluta were investigated by generating stable transgenic tobacco lines, biolistic transformation of Antirrhinum petals and promoter activation/repression assays. Eluta competes with MYB activators for promoter cis-elements, and also by titrating essential cofactors (bHLH proteins) to reduce transcription of target genes. Eluta restricts the pigmentation established by the R2R3-MYB factors, Rosea and Venosa, with the greatest repression on those parts of the petals where Eluta is most highly expressed. Baur questioned the origin of heredity units determining flower colour variation in cultivated A.?majus. Our findings support introgression from wild species into cultivated varieties.