Suntory Ltd. and Tohoku University collaborated to create new biotechnology process that will create flower colors unachievable by traditional breeding. Led by Eiichiro Ono, a researcher at Suntory Ltd., the team recently artificially bred yellow flowers by implanting genes responsible for the coloration of snapdragons. They successfully tested their new technology, along with yellow pigment genes, to create a new, yellow variety of torenia.
The group published its findings in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America. Researchers identified the gene in the study as “aurone.” This gene comes from the enzyme that creates the yellow pigment in snapdragons. However, the researchers realized that along with this gene they also needed to create the yellow pigment in the flowers before identifying its gene as well. Once this was accomplished, Ono and his group tested the research by introducing the two genes into torenia, a flower that typically produces blue flowers.
Suntory Ltd. has expanded its focus while continuing to work with new technologies in advanced core science. In the early 1990s, Suntory collaborated with the Melbourne biotechnology firm, Florigene, formerly Calgene Pacific Ltd., to develop and patent genetic engineering methods for the world's first blue rose. In 2004, Suntory succeeded in creating the first blue rose by implanting the gene that lead to the synthesis of blue pigment in pansies.
Representatives at Suntory Ltd. say they have no plans to commercialize this biotechnology. They do believe this technology may make it possible to create the yellow variety of other flowers such as geranium, saintpaulia or African violet.