Biotech Updates

Iron Content in Polished Rice Increased Six-Fold

November 6, 2009

Using transgenic methods, scientists from ETH Zurich, Switzerland have succeeded in increasing the iron content in polished rice more than six-fold by transferring two plant genes into an existing rice variety. This was reported by Wilhelm Gruissem of the Department of Biology, ETH Zurich during the Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference: Agricultural Biotechnology for Better Living and a Clean Environment held at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok, Thailand last September 22-25, 2009.

Peeled rice, also called polished rice, does not have enough iron to satisfy the daily requirement, even if consumed in large quantities. The research team discovered that rice plants express the two genes to produce the enzyme nicotianamin synthase, which mobilizes iron, and the protein ferritin, which stores iron. Their synergistic action, says Gruissem, allows the rice plant to absorb more iron from the soil and store it in the rice kernel. The product of nicotianamine synthase, called nicotianamin, binds the iron temporarily and facilitates its transportation in the plant.

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