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Crop Biotech Update

Manipulating Carotenoid Content of Orange Corn

March 31, 2010

Carotenoids in orange corn are targets of genetic manipulation in a research being conducted at Purdue University led by by Torbert Rocheford. In Africa and Southeast Asia, between 250,000 and 500,000 children go blind each year due to Vitamin A deficiency and who would die within a year. The researchers through simple visual selection for darker orange color combined with more advanced molecular natural diversity screening techniques hope to create better lines of the orange corn.

The team found that the gene beta-carotene hydroxylase 1 (crtR-B1) converts beta carotene into carotenoids cutting the amount of provitamin A into half. Thus, a weak form of the gene was selected that could build up beta carotene, which is now currently being moved into breeding materials. On the other hand, choosing a strong version of the gene could increase zeaxanthin, a micronutrient involved in preventing macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 55 in the Western industrialized countries. The research published in Nature Genetics could therefore lead to the development of corn suitable for the developing world such as Asia and Africa with high beta carotene corn and one with high zeaxanthin for the western developed world.

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