Dietary consumption of anthocyanins, a class of pigments produced by higher plants, has been associated with protection against a broad range of human diseases. However, anthocyanin levels in the most commonly eaten fruits and vegetables may be inadequate to confer optimal benefits. When we expressed two transcription factors from snapdragon in tomato, the fruit of the plants accumulated anthocyanins at levels substantially higher than previously reported for efforts to engineer anthocyanin accumulation in tomato and at concentrations comparable to the anthocyanin levels found in blackberries and blueberries. Expression of the two transgenes enhanced the hydrophilic antioxidant capacity of tomato fruit threefold and resulted in fruit with intense purple coloration in both peel and flesh. In a pilot test, cancer-susceptible Trp53−/− mice fed a diet supplemented with the high-anthocyanin tomatoes showed a significant extension of life span.
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We thank Andrew Davis for photography and David Hopwood for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the EU FP5 PROFOOD project (QLK1-CT-2001-01080) awarded to A.G.B., R.D.H., H.-P.M. and C.M.; by the EU FP6 FLORA project (FOOD-CT-01730) awarded to H.-P.M., R.D.H., M.G. and C.M.; by the Centre for Biosystems Genomics as part of the Netherlands Genomic Initiative which supports A.G.B. and R.D.H.; and by the core strategic grant of the Biological and Biotechnological Science Research Council (BBSRC) to JIC, which supports C.M.
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Butelli, E., Titta, L., Giorgio, M. et al. Enrichment of tomato fruit with health-promoting anthocyanins by expression of select transcription factors. Nat Biotechnol 26, 1301–1308 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt.1506
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