Molecular Biology Reports

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 2991–2999 | Cite as

Molecular characterization and expression analysis of dihydroflavonol 4-reductase (DFR) gene in Saussurea medusa



Dihydroflavonol 4-reductase (DFR), which catalyzes the reduction of dihydroflavonols to leucoanthocyanins, is a key enzyme in the biosynthesis of anthocyanidins, proanthocyanidins, and other flavonoids of importance in plant development and human nutrition. This study isolated a full length cDNA encoding DFR, designated as SmDFR (GenBank Accession No. EF600682), by screening a cDNA library from a red callus line of Saussurea medusa, which is an endangered, traditional Chinese medicinal plant with high pharmacological value. SmDFR was functionally expressed in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) to confirm that SmDFR can readily reduce dihydroquercetin (DHQ) and dihydrokampferol (DHK), but it could not reduce dihydromyricetin (DHM). The deduced SmDFR structure shared extensive sequence similarity with previously characterized plant DFRs and phylogenetic analysis showed that it belonged to the plant DFR super-family. SmDFR also possessed flavanone 4-reductase (FNR) activity and can catalyze the conversion of eridictyol to luteoforol. Real-time PCR analysis showed that the expression level of SmDFR was higher in flowers compared with both leaves and roots. This work greatly enhances our knowledge of flavonoid biosynthesis in S. medusa and marks a major advance that could facilitate future genetic modification of S. medusa.


Dihydroflavonol 4-reductase DFR Flavonoids Expression analysis Saussurea medusa 



Anthocyanidin synthase




Chalcone isomerase








Dihydroflavonol 4-reductase


High performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry


Flavanone 3-hydroxylase


Flavanonoid 3′ hydroxylase


Flavanone 4-reductase


Naphthaleneacetic Acid


Reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate


Open reading frame


Phenylalanine ammonia-lyase


Untranslated region



This work was supported by the National Science Foundation of China (No. 30873452; 30701089). The authors thank Dr. Duncan E. Jackson for critical review and comments to improve the manuscript.

Supplementary material

11033_2011_1061_MOESM1_ESM.docx (262 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 261 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Houhua Li
    • 1
    • 4
  • Jian Qiu
    • 1
  • Fudong Chen
    • 1
  • Xiaofen Lv
    • 1
  • Chunxiang Fu
    • 2
  • Dexiu Zhao
    • 1
  • Xuejun Hua
    • 1
  • Qiao Zhao
    • 3
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Photosynthesis and Environmental Molecular Physiology, Institute of BotanyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Forage Improvement DivisionThe Samuel Roberts Noble FoundationArdmoreUSA
  3. 3.Plant Biology DivisionThe Samuel Roberts Noble FoundationArdmoreUSA
  4. 4.College of ForestryNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina

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