Purple limes and blood oranges could be next for Florida citrus

January 7, 2016 by Kimberly Moore Wilmoth
Purple limes and blood oranges could be next for Florida citrus
Purple limes developed by UF/IFAS researchers. Credit: UF/IFAS

University of Florida horticulture scientist Manjul Dutt is hoping to turn your next margarita on its head by making it a lovely lavender instead of passé pale green.

Dutt and Jude Grosser from the UF Citrus Research and Education Center are developing genetically engineered limes containing some similar genetic factors that are expressed in grape skin and blood orange pulp. These modified Mexican limes have a protein that induces anthocyanin biosynthesis, the process that creates the "red" in red wine, and causes the limes to develop a range of colors in the pulp from dark purple to fuchsia.

"Anthocyanins are beneficial bioflavonoids that have numerous roles in human well-being," Dutt explained. "Numerous pharmacological studies have implicated their intake to the prevention of a number of , such as obesity and diabetes."

Anthocyanins also naturally occur in a variety of oranges called blood oranges, which has a red to maroon colored flesh and, some say, a better taste than Florida's "blond" oranges. But blood oranges need cold temperatures to develop their trademark vibrant . They grow and color well in the cooler climates of Spain and Italy, but do not exhibit the characteristic blood red color when grown in the subtropical climate of the Florida citrus belt.

These new limes were developed using genes isolated from the red grape "Ruby Seedless" and the Blood Orange "Moro." Research on the utilization of these genes was conducted initially to develop a more consumer-friendly, alternative, plant-derived, system. They are the first step toward Florida farmers producing blood oranges and, possibly, a new grapefruit cultivar.

In addition to changing the color of the fruit, the introduction of anthocyanins also change the color of leaves stems and flowers, and could lead to the creation of ornamental citrus plants.

"Novel fruit, leaf, and flower colors could be produced by regulating anthocyanin biosynthesis," Dutt said. "Flower color ranged from light pink to fuchsia."

Dutt and Grosser's study is being published in the January edition of the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science.

Explore further: Engineering blue-hued flowers

Related Stories

Engineering blue-hued flowers

June 27, 2011

Flower color in plants is determined by pigments such as aurones, anthocyanins, and carotenoids. Research has found that the ultimate color displayed is dependent not only on the pigment present, but also on other factors, ...

UF creates trees with enhanced resistance to greening

November 23, 2015

After a decade of battling the highly destructive citrus greening bacterium, researchers with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have developed genetically modified citrus trees that show ...

Three food grade colorants identified for citrus

November 30, 2015

In citrus fruit, the color of the peel is a major factor in consumer selection; fresh oranges with a dark orange peel are favored. In order to appeal to consumer preferences, citrus that is picked when it hasn't reached peak ...

Recommended for you

A new path for killing pathogenic bacteria

August 24, 2016

Bacteria that cause tuberculosis, leprosy and other diseases, survive by switching between two different types of metabolism. EPFL scientists have now discovered that this switch is controlled by a mechanism that constantly ...

Scientists develop new techniques to track how cells develop

August 24, 2016

Understanding how various cell types differentiate themselves during development is one of the fundamental questions in developmental biology. Using genome-editing tools, Harvard scientists are getting closer to finding answers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.