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Crop Biotech Update

Danforth Center Scientists Discover a Method to Reduce Cyanogens in Cassava

August 5, 2011

Cassava is one of the major sources of calories of 700 million people worldwide, especially in the developing countries. Thus, researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center have developed a technique that would not only accelerate the reduction of cyanogen during food processing, resulting in a safer food product, but also lead to increased root protein levels and improved nutritional value.

Hydroxynitrile Lyase (HNL) is a protein present in cassava leaves with 50% essential amino acids. It is edible to humans with no allergic side effects. The researches found that transgenic roots with HNL had 53-74% reduction in cyanogen levels, and resulted to nutritionally enhanced cassava with increased protein content and amino acids, when compared with the wild type. Over-expression of NHL also led to reduced time to process and remove cyanogens in the roots.

"This breakthrough demonstrates that it is possible to use genetic modification to deliver enhanced cassava with decreased cyanogenic content as well as increased protein and essential amino acids that will directly benefit children and at-risk populations," said Narayanan N. Narayanan, one of the researchers of the study.

For more information, contact Karla Goldstein of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center at KGoldstein@danforthcenter.org.