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Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Conduct Multigene Engineering to Improve Maize Starch

July 10, 2013

Scientist Lili Jiang from Northeast Normal University in China, and colleagues aimed to improve the starch content and composition of maize. They used multigene engineering approach to target the complex traits involved. Genes Bt2, Sh2, Sh1 and GbssIIa (involved in the activity of sucrose synthase, AGPase and granule-bound starch synthase) were overexpressed while SbeI and SbeIIb were silenced through RNA interference to reduce the activity of starch branching enzyme.

Results showed that the maize plants expressing all six genes and the selectable marker had significant increase (~3-8%) in the endosperm starch content and ~38-44% increase in the proportion of amylose. Improvements in other agronomic traits were also observed such as increase in grain and ear weight, and enlargement of kernels with healthier appearance, which reflects the improved starch structure inside the kernels.

Based on the findings, multigene engineering is an effective approach to modify the starch biosynthesis pathway, leading to improved quality and quantity of maize starch and other agronomic traits.

Read the abstract published at Transgenic Research: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11248-013-9717-4.