Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Team finds an economical way to boost the vitamin a content of maize

A team of plant geneticists and crop scientists has pioneered an economical approach to the selective breeding of maize that can boost levels of provitamin A, the precursors that are converted to vitamin A upon consumption. This innovation could help to enhance the nutritional status of millions of people in the developing world.

The new method is described this week in the journal Science.

The team includes scientists from Cornell University, the University of Illinois, Boyce Thompson Institute, DuPont Crop Genetics Research, the University of North Carolina, the City University of New York, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The innovation involves a new approach for selecting the parent stock for breeding maize, and significantly reduces the ambiguity and expense of finding varieties that yield the highest provitamin A content available. As part of this investigation, the researchers have identified a naturally mutated enzyme that enhances the provitamin A content of maize.

... more about:
»CONTENT »Provitamin »allele »precursors »varieties

Vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of eye disease and other health disorders in the developing world. Some 40 million children are afflicted with eye disease, and another 250 million suffer with health problems resulting from a lack of dietary vitamin A.

“Maize is the dominant subsistence crop in much of Sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas,” the researchers write, “where between 17 and 30 percent of children under the age of 5 are vitamin A deficient.”

Maize also is one of the most genetically diverse food crops on the planet, said Torbert Rocheford, a professor of nutritional sciences at Illinois and a corresponding author on the paper.

This diversity is tantalizing to those hoping to make use of desirable traits, but it also provides a formidable challenge in trying to understand the genetic basis of those attributes.

One hurdle to increasing the provitamin A content of maize has been the expense of screening the parent stock and progeny of breeding experiments, Rocheford said.

A common technique, called high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), can assess the provitamin A content of individual plant lines. But screening a single sample costs $50 to $75, he said.

“That’s really expensive, especially since plant breeders like to screen hundreds or more plants per cycle, twice a year,” he said. “The cost was just prohibitive.”

The new approach uses much more affordable methods and gives a more detailed picture of the genetic endowment of individual lines. One technique the researchers employed, called quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping, allowed them to identify regions of the maize chromosomes that influence production of the precursors of vitamin A. They also used association mapping, which involves studying variation in selected genes and tracking inheritance patterns to see which form of a gene coincides with the highest provitamin A content. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) allowed them to amplify and sequence the different versions (alleles) of the genes of interest, to find the alleles that boosted levels of vitamin A precursors in the plant.

This approach led to an important discovery. The team found a mutant form of an enzyme vital to the cascade of chemical reactions that produce the precursors of vitamin A in the plant. This mutant is transcribed in lower quantities than the normal allele and steers the biochemistry toward producing higher levels of vitamin A precursors.

The study analyzed 300 genetic lines selected to represent the global diversity of maize, and identified some varieties that came close to the target amount of 15 micrograms of beta-carotene (a form of provitamin A) per gram. Current maize varieties consumed in Africa can have provitamin A content as low as 0.1 micrograms per gram.

The researchers can now inexpensively screen different maize varieties for this allele and breed those that contain it to boost the nutritional quality of the maize, said Rocheford, who also is affiliated with the Institute for Genomic Biology.

Diana Yates | University of Illinois
Further information:

Further reports about: CONTENT Provitamin allele precursors varieties

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>