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Transgenics Turn Nutritionally Poor Cassava Into Carotenoid-Rich Yellow Variety

October 4, 2010: 11:46 AM EST

Collaborative biofortification research efforts among German and Colombian scientists applying transgenic modification techniques turned a white-rooted cassava cultivar into a yellow-rooted variety that accumulates beta-carotene (provitamin A). The white cassava is a carbohydrate staple in arid regions of the world, including Sub-Saharan Africa, but is unfortunately low in micronutrients. Scientists looking at differences among cassava varieties found a single amino acid change in the enzyme phytoene synthase, which functions in the biochemical pathway that produces carotenoids. The research "paves the way for using transgenic or conventional breeding methods to generate commercial cassava cultivars containing high levels of provitamin A carotenoids,” the researchers concluded.

Welsch, R., Arango, J., et al., "Provitamin A accumulation in cassava (Manihot esculenta) roots driven by a single nucleotide polymorphism in a phytoene synthase gene", The Plant Cell, October 04, 2010, © American Society of Plant Biologists
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