Biotech Updates

Gene Find Could Lead to Healthier Food, Better Biofuel Production

November 26, 2010

The gene prephenate aminotransferase involved in phenylalanine production was recently identified and isolated by scientists from Purdue University, Natalia Dudareva a professor in horticulture and Hiroshi Maeda, a postdoctoral researcher. Phenylalanine is one of the essential amino acids that humans and animals cannot synthesize. It also plays significant roles in flower scent, anti-oxidants and lignin production in plants.

Phenylalanine production in plant cells can now be regulated by molecularly manipulating the phephenate aminotransferase expression. "In plant tissues where we want to lower lignin content, we may be able to block these pathways," Maeda said. "In cases where you want to increase the amount of phenylalanine, we could do that as well." This result finds practical application in the development of crops with low lignin content for biofuel production and for nutritious food.

The gene also finds economic and agricultural importance in its involvement in flower scent such that reduction in gene expression also reduced flower scent in petunia flower. Overexpression of the gene and increased flower scent could attract pollinating insects in some agricultural plants.

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