Purple pakchoi (Brassica rapa
) is particularly appreciated due to its high edible quality and ornamental value, but there are few studies on the underlying mechanisms of leaf color formation. To comprehensively assess the differences in purple formation in pakchoi, four lines of pakchoi with different purple leaves were used in this experiment to determine the pigment content and to investigate the distribution and components of anthocyanin using LCMS (Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry) and leaf cross-sections. Moreover, the expression levels of anthocyanin synthesis-related genes in four lines were calculated by qRT-PCR. The results showed that three new purple lines rich in anthocyanin and of high-quality were bred, and the anthocyanin were mainly distributed in both the upper epidermis and lower epidermis of leaves. Thirteen anthocyanin components were separated and identified, all the anthocyanins were acylated and glycosylated cyanidins; the main anthocyanins in purple pakchoi were a diacylated form of cyanidin 3-trans
-(feruloyl)diglucoside-5-(malonyl)glucoside. Both the ratio of non-aromatic acylated cyanidin to aromatic acylated cyanidin and the ratio of anthocyanin content to chlorophyll content were responsible for the color formation in different purple pakchoi lines. When the ratio was high, the leaf appeared reddish purple, and when the ratio was low, the leaf appeared deep purple, even blackish purple. The expression level of BrF3H
was significantly correlated with the content of anthocyanin through the correlation coefficient, which was speculated to be the main anthocyanin synthesis-related gene resulting in color differences among the four purple pakchoi lines. These results will enhance our understanding for the cultivation of new purple pakchoi varieties.
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