Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Produce Protein-rich Potato Tubers

October 15, 2010

Protein deficiency affects growth and development in humans, leading to high morbidity and mortality particularly in developing countries. Various initiatives have been implemented to enhance the protein content and quality of crops but with inadequate success. Thus, Subhra Chakraborty of the National Institute of Plant Genome Research, New Delhi, together with his team of scientists, developed potatoes with improved nutritive value through genetically engineered expression of a seed protein (Amarath Albumin 1 or AmA1) in the tuber, using potato lines fit for various agro-climatic locations. Analyses showed that the transgenic tubers have increased total protein content by 60%. Transgenic tubers also exhibited higher essential amino acid content, which is limited in wild-type potatoes. There was also an increase in photosynthetic activity, resulting to increase in biomass. Moderate increase in the tuber yield was also observed. Protein profiling suggests that the rebalancing of the expressed proteins could increase the protein content in transgenic tubers.

Field performance and safety evaluation results also suggest that the transgenic tubers are suitable for commercial cultivation. Furthermore, results of the laboratory tests on experimental animals showed that the GM tubers are safe for human consumption. Therefore, the results imply that AmA1 expression is a possible way to improve the nutritional value of food crops.

The abstract of this study is available at http://www.pnas.org/content/107/41/17533.abstract.