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A DNA transposon was found in the gene encoding a bHLH transcription factor. Genotypes of the marker tagging this DNA transposon perfectly co-segregated with color phenotypes in large F2:3 populations A combined approach of bulked segregant analysis and RNA-Seq was used to isolate causal gene for C locus controlling white bulb color in onions (Allium cepa L.). A total of 114 contigs containing homozygous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) between white and yellow bulked RNAs were identified. Four of them showed high homologies with loci clustered in the middle of chromosome 5. SNPs in 34 contigs were confirmed by sequencing of PCR products. One of these contigs showed perfect linkage to the C locus in F2:3 populations consisting of 2491 individuals. However, genotypes of molecular marker tagging this contig were inconsistent with color phenotypes of diverse breeding lines. A total of 146 contigs showed differential expression between yellow and white bulks. Among them, transcription levels of B2 gene encoding a bHLH transcription factor were significantly reduced in white RNA bulk and F2:3 individuals, although there was no SNP in the coding region. Phylogenetic analysis showed that onion B2 was orthologous to bHLH-coding genes regulating anthocyanin biosynthesis pathway in other plant species. Promoter regions of B2 gene were obtained by genome walking and a 577-bp non-autonomous DNA transposon designated as AcWHITE was found in the white allele. Molecular marker tagging AcWHITE showed perfect linkage with the C locus. Marker genotypes of the white allele were detected in some white accessions. However, none of tested red or yellow onions contained AcWHITE insertion, implying that B2 gene was likely to be a casual gene for the C locus.


Changyeong Jo, Sunggil Kim. Transposition of a non-autonomous DNA transposon in the gene coding for a bHLH transcription factor results in a white bulb color of onions (Allium cepa L.). TAG. Theoretical and applied genetics. Theoretische und angewandte Genetik. 2020 Jan;133(1):317-328

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PMID: 31637460

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