No.12196 October 10, 2014
Suntory Global Innovation Center Limited (SIC) (President: Masato Arishiro) has succeeded in making an illusory "Yellow Morning Glory" blossom in a joint research with the National Institute for Basic Biology and Kagoshima University.
The Japanese Morning Glory originally only came into bloom with blue petals. Today the flower comes in many colors, such as red, pink, purple, brown and white, the result of many years of breed improvement. Illustrated books from Japan's Edo Period (1603-1868) depict Japanese Morning Glories with a brilliant yellow hue, but they have not been heard of since. Hence the Yellow Morning Glory has been called "the Illusory Morning Glory" in Japan.
Yellow flowers commonly contain such pigments as carotenoids or aurones, but no Japanese Morning Glory contains any of these in large quantities.
The research group focused their attention on the mechanism producing the yellow color in another flower species—the snapdragon—and attempted to use it to create a Yellow Morning Glory.
Prior research has already found that in snapdragons with yellow petals, the yellow pigments, aurones, are synthesized by the activities of two genes: a chalcone glucosyltransferase gene and an aurone synthase gene, both of which are necessary to synthesizes aurones from a cream-colored pigment called chalcone. The researchers introduced these two genes from a snapdragon into a Japanese morning glory. In the experiment, they used "54Y," a strain of Japanese morning glory that produces chalcone, the cream-colored pigment. This strain is distinguished by its petals, which do not open fully because they tend to shrink.
The results of the experiment were that like the snapdragon, the yellow pigment aurones were synthesized in the Japanese morning glory's petals and turned them yellow. Furthermore, the petals became less prone to shrinking compared to "54Y" and they opened beautifully.
By creating the Yellow Morning Glory that had been no more than an illusion for so long, in the future we expect to create more Japanese Morning Glory flowers with a variety of entirely new shapes and colors in addition to yellow.