Genetic analysis of the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha reveals that R2R3MYB activation of flavonoid production in response to abiotic stress is an ancient character in land plants

Nick W. Albert, Amali H. Thrimawithana, Tony K. McGhie, William A. Clayton, Simon C. Deroles, Kathy E. Schwinn, John L. Bowman, Brian R. Jordan, Kevin M. Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


The flavonoid pathway is hypothesized to have evolved during land colonization by plants c. 450 Myr ago for protection against abiotic stresses. In angiosperms, R2R3MYB transcription factors are key for environmental regulation of flavonoid production. However, angiosperm R2R3MYB gene families are larger than those of basal plants, and it is not known whether the regulatory system is conserved across land plants. We examined whether R2R3MYBs regulate the flavonoid pathway in liverworts, one of the earliest diverging land plant lineages. We characterized MpMyb14 from the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha using genetic mutagenesis, transgenic overexpression, gene promoter analysis, and transcriptomic and chemical analysis. MpMyb14 is phylogenetically basal to characterized angiosperm R2R3MYB flavonoid regulators. Mpmyb14 knockout lines lost all red pigmentation from the flavonoid riccionidin A, whereas overexpression conferred production of large amounts of flavones and riccionidin A, activation of associated biosynthetic genes, and constitutive red pigmentation. MpMyb14 expression and flavonoid pigmentation were induced by light- and nutrient-deprivation stress in M. polymorpha as for anthocyanins in angiosperms. MpMyb14 regulates stress-induced flavonoid production in M. polymorpha, and is essential for red pigmentation. This suggests that R2R3MYB regulated flavonoid production is a conserved character across land plants which arose early during land colonization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)554-566
Number of pages13
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • CRISPR/Cas9
  • evolution
  • flavonoid
  • liverwort
  • MYB
  • stress

Cite this