"Orange" Cauliflower Gene Eyed as Nutrition
Booster By Luis
Pons January 17, 2007
Can a gene from an orange cauliflower found three decades ago be the
key to making food crops more nutritious?
Quite possibly, according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist
Li. She's using cauliflower to identify genes and define molecular
mechanisms that regulate nutrients in plant-based foods.
Li, a molecular biologist at the ARS U.S. Plant, Soil and Nutrition
in Ithaca, N.Y., is making significant headway using this genedubbed "Or"
for the color orangeto induce high levels of beta-carotene in food crops.
She and colleagues at Cornell University
isolated the gene last year.
The research may make a huge impact on vitamin A deficiency, which has
been reported to affect some 250 million children worldwide, according to Li.
That's because beta-carotene, which gives orange carrots their color, is a
carotenoidfruit-and-vegetable compounds that the body converts into
essential vitamins and uses as antioxidants beneficial to health. Humans
convert it into vitamin A.
biologist Li Li (left) and Li-Wei Chiu, a Cornell University graduate student,
isolate novel genes from cauliflower to improve crop nutritional value.
Click the images for more information about them.
Li added that, in cauliflower, Orwhich she described as a
semi-dominant gene mutationpromotes high beta-carotene accumulation in
various plant tissues that normally don't have carotenoids.
These studies can help researchers understand how carotenoid synthesis
and accumulation are regulated in plants. This, in turn, can lead to strategies
for increasing carotenoid content in food crops for improving human nutrition
and health, she said.
The Or gene originates from an orange cauliflower plant found in a
Canadian field nearly 30 years ago. ARS and Cornell scientists in Ithaca have
been studying its genetics for about eight years.
Li's current work, which is partially detailed in the December issue
of the publication Plant Cell,
is part of a concentrated strategy at PSNL to apply genomics and related
disciplines toward improving the nutritional quality and disease resistance of
important food crops.
about the research in the January 2007 issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the USDA's chief scientific