How Genetics Shape Bell Pepper Colors: A Study of Four Types

Jenn Hoskins
15th May, 2024

How Genetics Shape Bell Pepper Colors: A Study of Four Types

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at West Virginia State University studied the genetic mechanisms behind fruit color variation in four Capsicum species
  • They identified key genes, including Cytochrome P450, MYB transcription factors, and pentatricopeptide repeat-containing proteins, that influence fruit color
  • These findings provide valuable tools for crop breeding programs to align with consumer preferences and highlight conserved genetic pathways across different plant species
Peppers, or Capsicum spp., are among the most widely consumed spices worldwide, with fruit color playing a crucial role in their market quality, nutritional content, and applications in food colorants and cosmeceuticals. The extensive phenotypic diversity in fruit coloration among cultivated Capsicum species has long intrigued scientists. A recent study by researchers at West Virginia State University[1] has shed light on the genetic mechanisms driving this color variation, revealing a shared set of genes influencing fruit color across the four cultivated Capsicum species: Capsicum baccatum, Capsicum chinense, Capsicum frutescens, and Capsicum annuum. The study utilized a genome-wide association study (GWAS) approach to analyze color metrics and chromatic attributes (such as Red, Green, Blue, L*, a*, b*, Luminosity, Hue, and Chroma) in samples cultivated over six years (2015-2021). By leveraging the genetic variance within the four Capsicum species, the researchers aimed to elucidate the genetic mechanisms behind fruit color diversity. They identified significant single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) through Genotyping by Sequencing (GBS) and GWAS using a Multi-Locus Mixed Linear Model (MLMM) with False Discovery Rate (FDR) correction. The study found that genes within the Cytochrome P450 pathway, MYB transcription factors, and pentatricopeptide repeat-containing proteins were the major contributors to fruit color variation across the Capsicum species. Cytochrome P450 enzymes are known for their role in the carotenoid pathway, which is essential for the synthesis of pigments responsible for red, orange, and yellow colors in plants. The MYB transcription factors are regulatory proteins that control the expression of genes involved in pigment biosynthesis, while pentatricopeptide repeat-containing proteins are involved in various cellular processes, including RNA editing and stability. The researchers further validated the role of a pentatricopeptide repeat-containing protein (located at Chr01:31,205,460) and a cytochrome P450 enzyme (located at Chr08:45,351,919) through competitive allele-specific PCR (KASP) genotyping. These findings advance our understanding of the genetic underpinnings of Capsicum fruit coloration and provide valuable tools for crop breeding programs aimed at aligning with consumer preferences. The study builds on earlier research into the domestication and genetic diversity of Capsicum annuum. Previous studies have highlighted the significant economic and cultural importance of C. annuum, particularly in Mesoamerica, and have suggested multiple independent domestications from widely distributed progenitor populations[2]. The new findings from West Virginia State University align with these earlier studies by providing a deeper genetic insight into the phenotypic diversity observed in Capsicum species. Additionally, the study's findings on the role of MYB transcription factors in fruit coloration are consistent with research on other fruit species. For instance, a study on strawberries identified the FaMYB1 gene as a key regulator of anthocyanin biosynthesis, which affects fruit coloration[3]. Similarly, research on apples demonstrated the interaction between ethylene and MYB transcription factors in regulating fruit coloration and ripening[4]. These parallels suggest that the mechanisms and pathways influencing fruit color are conserved across different plant species. The discovery of the pepper chlorophyll retainer (cl) mutation, which inhibits chlorophyll degradation during fruit ripening, further underscores the complexity of fruit coloration in Capsicum species. The cl mutation has been shown to affect chlorophyll degradation during both fruit ripening and leaf senescence, indicating its role as a stay-green (sgr) mutant[5]. Understanding such genetic mutations and their effects on fruit coloration can provide additional insights into the genetic diversity and evolutionary history of Capsicum species. In summary, the recent study by West Virginia State University has significantly advanced our understanding of the genetic mechanisms driving fruit color variation in Capsicum species. By identifying key genes and validating their roles through genotyping, the researchers have provided valuable tools for future crop breeding programs. These findings also highlight the conserved nature of the genetic pathways influencing fruit coloration across different plant species, offering a broader perspective on the evolution and domestication of Capsicum and related Solanaceae species.

FruitsGeneticsPlant Science


Main Study

1) Genetic tapestry of Capsicum fruit colors: a comparative analysis of four cultivated species.

Published 14th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Genetic diversity and structure in semiwild and domesticated chiles (Capsicum annuum; Solanaceae) from Mexico.

3) The strawberry FaMYB1 transcription factor suppresses anthocyanin and flavonol accumulation in transgenic tobacco.

Journal: The Plant journal : for cell and molecular biology, Issue: Vol 28, Issue 3, Nov 2001

4) EIN3-LIKE1, MYB1, and ETHYLENE RESPONSE FACTOR3 Act in a Regulatory Loop That Synergistically Modulates Ethylene Biosynthesis and Anthocyanin Accumulation.

5) Chlorophyll breakdown during pepper fruit ripening in the chlorophyll retainer mutation is impaired at the homolog of the senescence-inducible stay-green gene.

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