Unlocking the Secrets of Color in Crape Myrtle Flowers

Jenn Hoskins
8th March, 2024

Unlocking the Secrets of Color in Crape Myrtle Flowers

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at Nantong University mapped the crape myrtle's genome, revealing its complex genetic history
  • The study found specific genes that determine the plant's vibrant flower colors
  • It also identified a gene that suppresses color production, adding insight into flower color regulation
Lagerstroemia indica, commonly known as crape myrtle, is not only a plant with eye-catching flowers but also has medicinal uses in traditional practices. Despite its popularity, there has been a gap in our understanding of its genetic makeup, which has limited advancements in breeding and the utilization of its beneficial properties. A recent breakthrough by researchers at Nantong University has now provided a detailed look at the crape myrtle's genome, paving the way for future scientific and horticultural developments[1]. The study successfully sequenced the genome of L. indica, assembling over 324 million base pairs of DNA into 24 pseudo-chromosomes. This genetic blueprint revealed that the plant has a complex history of genetic duplication, specifically a hexaploidy event, which means its ancestors underwent three rounds of whole genome duplication. This is a significant finding as it helps explain the genetic diversity and adaptability of this species. A key focus of the research was to understand the genetic basis for the plant's vibrant flower colors, which range from white to deep purplish pink. It turns out that the color variations are largely due to different levels of delphinidin-based derivatives, a type of pigment. Interestingly, the study identified that two genes, LiDFR and LiOMTs, play a role in the composition of these pigments, affecting the shades of the flowers. Furthermore, the research team discovered ten R2R3 MYB genes that positively regulate the biosynthesis of flavonoids and anthocyanins, compounds responsible for the plant's coloration. This finding builds on previous research that showed the importance of MYB genes in flower color diversity in L. indica[2]. Moreover, the study also noted the presence of LiTTG1-1, a gene that appears to suppress the production of anthocyanins, adding another layer to the regulatory mechanism of flower color. The research also has implications for our understanding of plant stress responses. Earlier studies identified a family of genes known as LiCIPKs, which play roles in abiotic stress tolerance in L. indica[3]. The current study's comprehensive genomic information can further assist in pinpointing how these genes operate and interact with other stress-related pathways. The genetic linkage map created in this study, with its high density and precision, is a significant advancement for the breeding of L. indica[4]. It can facilitate the selection of desirable traits, such as flower color and stress resistance, which are important for both ornamental value and survival in various environments. In addition to enhancing our knowledge of L. indica's genome, the study also contributes to the broader understanding of the Myrtaceae family's evolution and genetic diversity[4]. The discovery of an independent whole-genome triplication event in L. indica adds a new dimension to the evolutionary history of flowering plants. This genomic exploration of L. indica has set the stage for more targeted breeding programs and potentially new medicinal applications. While the study has made significant strides, the researchers acknowledge that further work is needed to fully decipher the complex genetic mechanisms that govern flower color development in crape myrtle. With this new genomic data, scientists and breeders are better equipped to enhance the ornamental and medicinal qualities of this beloved plant.

BiotechGeneticsPlant Science


Main Study

1) Genomic and transcriptomic studies on flavonoid biosynthesis in Lagerstroemia indica.

Published 5th March, 2024


Related Studies

2) Decoding the formation of diverse petal colors of Lagerstroemia indica by integrating the data from transcriptome and metabolome.


3) Genome-wide identification of calcineurin B-like protein-interacting protein kinase gene family reveals members participating in abiotic stress in the ornamental woody plant Lagerstroemia indica.


4) Genome assembly and resequencing analyses provide new insights into the evolution, domestication and ornamental traits of crape myrtle.


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