In the conversion from colorless leucoanthocyanidin to colored anthocyanidin 3-glucoside, at least two enzymes, anthocyanidin synthase (ANS) and UDP-glucose:flavonoid 3-O-glucosyltransferase (3-GT), are postulated to be involved. Despite the importance of this reaction sequence for coloring in anthocyanin biosynthesis, the biochemical reaction mechanism has not been clarified, and the possible involvement of a dehydratase has not been excluded. Here we show that recombinant ANSs from several model plant species, snapdragon, petunia, torenia, and maize, catalyze the formation of anthocyanidin in vitro through a 2-oxoglutarate-dependent oxidation of leucoanthocyanidin. Crude extracts of Escherichia coli, expressing recombinant ANSs from these plant species, and purified recombinant enzymes of petunia and maize catalyzed the formation of anthocyanidin in the presence of ferrous ion, 2-oxoglutarate, and ascorbate. The in vitro formation of colored cyanidin 3-glucoside from leucocyanidin, via a cyanidin intermediate, was demonstrated using petunia ANS and 3-GT. The entire reaction sequence did not require any additional dehydratase but was dependent on moderate acidic pH conditions following the enzymatic steps. The present study indicated that the in vivo cytosolic reaction sequence involves an ANS-catalyzed 2-oxoglutarate-dependent conversion of leucoanthocyanidin (flavan-3,4-cis-diol) to 3-flaven-2,3-diol (pseudobase), most probably through 2,3-desaturation and isomerization, followed by glucosylation at the C-3 position by 3-GT.
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