The findings could help ease hunger in many countries where people rely heavily on the cassava plant (Manihot esculenta) as a primary food source, said Richard Sayre, the study’s lead author and a professor of plant cellular and molecular biology at Ohio State University.
The researchers used a gene from the bacterium E. coli to genetically modify cassava plants. The plants, which were grown in a greenhouse, produced roots that were an average of 2.6 times larger than those produced by regular cassava plants.
“Not only did these plants produce larger roots, but the whole plant was bigger and had more leaves,” Sayre said. Both the roots and leaves of the cassava plant are edible.
Cassava is the primary food source for more than 250 million Africans – about 40 percent of the continent’s population. And the plant’s starchy tuberous root is a substantial portion of the diet of nearly 600 million people worldwide.
Sayre said he hopes to offer these plants to countries where cassava is an important crop.
The current study appears in the online early issue of the Plant Biotechnology Journal. Sayre collaborated with Ohio State colleague Uzoma Ihemere and scientists from BASF Plant Science in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and BARC-West in Beltsville, Md., who formerly worked on this project in his laboratory.
Sayre said that cassava produces sugar more efficiently than any other cultivated plant.
“We wanted to find a way to help the plant redirect that excess sugar and use it to make starch,” Sayre said.
The researchers used a variety of cassava native to Colombia (cassava was brought to Africa from South America by the Portuguese in the 1500s.) They inserted into three cassava plants an E. coli gene that controls starch production. A non-modified fourth plant served as a control.
“Cassava actually has this same gene,” Sayre said. “But the bacterial version of the gene is about a hundred times more active.”
The modified plants converted more of their sugar into starch, as shown by an increase in root size as well as the number of roots and leaves produced by each modified plant.
The roots of the modified plants were up to 2.6 fold larger than the roots of a non-modified plant (an average of 198 grams for the biggest roots vs. 74 grams for the roots of the non-modified plant.) The modified plants produced a maximum of 12 roots, compared to the seven roots produced by the non-modified plant. These modified plants also produced a third more leaves – a maximum of 123 leaves per modified plant vs. 92 leaves per non-modified plant.
Sayre said that the bigger roots produced by the plants were just that – bigger. They weren’t necessarily more nutritious. And they would still need to be processed quickly and properly after harvesting, as the roots and leaves of poorly processed cassava plants contain a substance that triggers the production of cyanide.
In previous work, Sayre helped create cassava that produced little to no cyanide once it is harvested.
He is also the principal investigator of an ongoing project focused on improving the nutritional content of cassava. In this work Sayre leads a team of national and international scientists focused on increasing the vitamin, mineral and protein content of the plant.
The current study was supported in part by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Centro Internacional Agricultura Tropical (CIAT) and Ohio State.
Richard Sayre | EurekAlert!
Newly discovered bacteria-binding protein in the intestine
08.12.2016 | University of Gothenburg
The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling
07.12.2016 | National Centre for Biological Sciences
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
08.12.2016 | Health and Medicine
08.12.2016 | Life Sciences