Crop Biotech Update

Biofortified Cassava Shows Higher Levels of Iron

February 6, 2019

Iron-deficiency anemia impacts the immune system of children, causing stunted growth and impared cognitive development. One of the strategies to combat this health problem is the biofortification of staple food through biotechnology tools. Researcher Narayanan Narayanan from Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and colleagues developed biofortified cassava with higher levels of iron as reported in Nature Biotechnology.

The research team overexpressed Arabidopsis thaliana vacuolar iron transporter V1T1 in cassava, which led to accumulation of iron in the storage root, and was found to be 3 to 7 times higher than the iron levels in non-transgenic control. Plants engineered to coexpress a mutated A. thaliana iron transporter (IRT1) and A. thaliana ferritin (FER1) accumulated iron levels 7-18 times higher and zinc levels 3-10 times higher than those in non-transgenic plants. There were no significant effects found in the growth parameters and storage root yields.

According to the researchers, iron and zinc in processed transgenic cassava (IRT1 + FER1) could provide 40–50% of the estimated average requirement for iron and 60–70% of the estimated average requirement for zinc in 1- to 6-year-old children and nonlactating, nonpregnant West African women.

Read the abstract in Nature Biotechnology.