Biotech Updates

QUT Scientist Unveils How Plants Regulate Vitamin C

March 18, 2015

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) scientist, Prof. Rogen Hellens, revealed how plants control cellular levels of vitamin C, which is vital in human nutrition.

According to Prof. Hellens, the results of his study may help in plant breeding programs to develop hardier crops and improve human health, especially in preventing vitamin C deficiency that may lead to iron deficiency anemia, the most common effect of malnutrition globally. Vitamin C enables more iron, which transports oxygen to cells, to be taken up or absorbed.

Prof. Hellens discussed that plants regulate cell processes in two ways, "One way is during transcription when DNA is turned into the messenger molecule RNA, the molecule that distinguishes cells into different types of tissue. The second way is to regulate while turning RNA into an enzyme that makes vitamin C. So if a cell wants to increase its level of vitamin C it's generally got two ways to do it - and we've discovered vitamins C uses the second method, and in an unexpected way. We discovered it's not whether the cell is making the RNA but whether the RNA is converted into a protein that is the deciding mechanism. It's very interesting because we found it was the level of vitamin C itself in each cell that decides whether RNA turns into the protein which makes vitamin C."

Prof. Hellens is working with Dr. Willian Laing of Plant and Food Research of New Zealand. The results of their study are published in Plant Cell journal. The news article is available at QUT website.