Heavenly Blue Ever wonder how flowers get their colors?

Heavenly Blue Ever wonder how flowers get their colors? Anthocyanin pigments, stored in the vacuoles of petal cells change color with pH (acidity). The Japanese Morning Glory, Ipomoea tricolor var. Heavenly Blue, changes color from purple to blue in the early hours of the morning (Figure A).

A section of the petal (B) shows the transition in color. Notice the change in cell volume (C) and pH (D) accompanying the color change. This is a caused by the induction of a gene, NHX1 that exchanges sodium or potassium ions for protons and regulates lumen pH. This gene was discovered serendipitously in my lab back in the ’90’s.

In humans, these same genes regulate pH inside synaptic vesicles and appear to be important for packaging neurotransmitters for release, and clearing them from the synaptic cleft. Mutations are linked to autism, addiction, ADHD and XLMR.

From flowers to neurons. Isn’t science wonderful?

Ref: http://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/pjab/85/6/85_187/_article

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18 Responses to Heavenly Blue Ever wonder how flowers get their colors?


  1. Thanks for posting Rajini Rao …reminds one of the marvels of nature in our busy lives….very nice 🙂


  2. Yes, science is wonderful


    . The Heavenly blue variety of the Morning Glory is my favorite flowering vine.

  3. Rajini Rao says:


    Kershaw Rustomji , thank you for your kind words. Marvels of nature, yes…. I get excited about this sort of thing 🙂


  4. Rajini Rao Me too …smiling

  5. Rajini Rao says:


    Terry Hallett , that is awesome! NHX1 is also called the purple gene when it is mutated. Now you know…..

  6. Rich Pollett says:


    Excellent however as a orchid lover also, the only way to get this in a phalaenopsis is to resort to augmenting. http://www.graceestellechapman.com/2011/01/blue-phalaenopsis-orchid.html

  7. Rajini Rao says:


    LOL, Rich Pollett , injecting blue dyes must also require scientific precision! I did not know that blue orchids were nonexistent. BTW, colors in hydrangeas are also dependent on soil pH.

  8. Rajini Rao says:


    Мултановский Вадим , I should clarify.. those ions are exchanged for protons (pH is derived from the proton concentration, as you know). In other words, protons are removed and replaced with sodium or potassium. Yes, I mean H+ ions 🙂


  9. Now I know, thanks to you Rajini Rao


  10. Haven’t seen a cross section of anything in years. Wonderful. I wish you showed how beautiful tha flower must be as a photo in itself.


  11. Funny how it works in Physics too. More frequency in green than red.


    Your reflected blue is just red mixed with bluish green. Right?? Ain’t God GREAT????


  12. I feel I must explain. I am a B.A. Biologist by training. Worked as a paint tech. for decades. Interest in vortex comes from hours and hours of watching paint particles being ground by huge dispersators. Also film footages of tornadoes. The only difference between paint and weatherr is that paint particles are reintroduced into the vortex and ground into finer and finer particles (an interesting research project).


    It doesn’t take much imagination to know WHAT lazers are.


    I just Observe and deduce.


  13. You might want to look also at structure colors, that are not done by pigments but due to the diffraction interference created by regular microstructures. We discussed the effect at our University and its applications in the industry. It is wonderful what we can learn from a butterflies wing.

  14. Rajini Rao says:


    Jochen Müller , that’s very interesting, had not thought of it. I wonder if flowers use diffraction interference..they seem to have smooth cellular surfaces, unlike those of butterflies. Let me know if you find any references to it, thanks!


  15. PLEASE don’t give me anymore ideas. I will look for any possible leaks in my workplace (TV).

  16. Rajini Rao says:


    A quick search gave this: “Striated muscle is the most commonly found natural diffraction grating and, indeed, this has helped physiologists in determining the structure of such muscle. Aside from this, diffraction gratings are rarely present in nature. Most commonly confused with diffraction gratings are the iridescent colors of peacock feathers, mother-of-pearl, and butterfly wings. Iridescence is common in birds, fishes, insects, and some flowers, and is almost always caused by thin-film interference rather than diffraction. Diffraction will produce the entire spectrum of colors as the viewing angle changes, whereas thin-film interference usually produces a much narrower range. The cell structures in plants and animals are usually too irregular to produce the fine slit geometry necessary for a diffraction grating.”


    Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/diffraction-grating#ixzz1gRgAeDTP

  17. Rajini Rao says:


    Thank you for sharing that Lisa Hogan Autry . We need to work quickly to understand and hopefully treat these conditions more effectively. All the best to you and the boys. 

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