Linking anthocyanin diversity, hue, and genetics in purple corn

Laura A. Chatham, John A. Juvik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While maize with anthocyanin-rich pericarp (purple corn) is rising in popularity as a source of natural colorant for foods and beverages, information on color range and stability—factors associated with anthocyanin decorations and compositional profiles—is currently limited. Furthermore, to maximize the scalability and meet growing demands, both anthocyanin concentrations and agronomic performance must improve in purple corn varieties. Using the natural anthocyanin diversity present in a purple corn landrace, Apache Red, we generated a population with variable flavonoid profiles—flavanol–anthocyanin condensed forms (0–83%), acylated anthocyanins (2–72%), pelargonidin-derived anthocyanins (5–99%), C-glycosyl flavone co-pigments up to 1904 mg/g, and with anthocyanin content up to 1598 mg/g. Each aspect of the flavonoid profiles was found to play a role in either the resulting extract hue or intensity. With genotyping-by-sequencing of this population, we mapped aspects of the flavonoid profile. Major quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for anthocyanin type were found near loci previously identified only in aleurone-pigmented maize varieties [Purple aleurone1 (Pr1) and Anthocyanin acyltransferase1 (Aat1)]. A QTL near P1 (Pericarp color1) was found for both flavone content and flavanol–anthocyanin condensed forms. A significant QTL associated with peonidin-derived anthocyanins near a candidate S-adenosylmethionine-dependent methyltransferase was also identified, warranting further investigation. Mapping total anthocyanin content produced signals near Aat1, the aleurone-associated bHLH R1 (Colored1), the plant color-associated MYB, Pl1 (Purple plant1), the aleurone-associated recessive intensifier, In1 (Intensifier1), and several previously unidentified candidates. This population represents one of the most anthocyanin diverse pericarp-pigmented maize varieties characterized to date. Moreover, the candidates identified here will serve as branching points for future research studying the genetic and molecular processes determining anthocyanin profile in pericarp.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjkaa062
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Anthocyanin
  • Flavonoid biosynthesis pathway
  • Genotyping-by-sequencing
  • Maize pericarp
  • Purple corn

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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