Positional differences of intronic transposons in pAMT affect the pungency level in chili pepper through altered splicing efficiency

Yoshiyuki Tanaka, Takaya Asano, Yorika Kanemitsu, Tanjuro Goto, Yuichi Yoshida, Kenichiro Yasuba, Yuki Misawa, Sachie Nakatani, Kenji Kobata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Capsaicinoids are unique compounds that give chili pepper fruits their pungent taste. Capsaicinoid levels vary widely among pungent cultivars, which range from low pungency to extremely pungent. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying this quantitative variation have not been elucidated. Our previous study identified various loss-of-function alleles of the pAMT gene which led to low pungency. The mutations in these alleles are commonly defined by Tcc transposon insertion and its footprint. In this study, we identified two leaky pamt alleles (pamtL1 and pamtL2) with different levels of putative aminotransferase (pAMT) activity. Notably, both alleles had a Tcc transposon insertion in intron 3, but the locations of the insertions within the intron were different. Genetic analysis revealed that pamtL1, pamtL2 and a loss-of-function pamt allele reduced capsaicinoid levels to about 50%, 10% and less than 1%, respectively. pamtL1 and pamtL2 encoded functional pAMT proteins, but they exhibited lower transcript levels than the functional type. RNA sequencing analysis showed that intronic transposons disrupted splicing in intron 3, which resulted in simultaneous expression of functional pAMT mRNA and non-functional splice variants containing partial sequences of Tcc. The non-functional splice variants were more dominant in pamtL2 than in pamtL1. This suggested that the difference in position of the intronic transposons could alter splicing efficiency, leading to different pAMT activities and reducing capsaicinoid content to different levels. Our results provide a striking example of allelic variations caused by intronic transposons; these variations contribute to quantitative differences in secondary metabolite contents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-705
Number of pages13
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2019


  • Capsicum chinense
  • capsaicinoid
  • capsinoid
  • chili pepper
  • hAT transposon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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