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2008: Fourth Quarter Report

Dr. Jiann-Tsyh Lin Develops Methodology for Seed Oil Identification

Dr. LinDr. Jiann-Tsyh (Ken) Lin, a research chemist in the Crop Improvement and Utilization Research Unit at WRRC, has developed analytical methodology that can identify the individual molecular species that make up a seed oil. Oils derived from seeds such as soy or olive oil are composed of a mixture of triacylglycerols (TAG), glycerol with three fatty acid molecules attached as esters. The oil contains a collection of different TAG species, depending on the fatty acid composition and biochemical characteristics of the type of seed producing the oil. Dr. Lin uses high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) coupled with mass spectroscopy (MS) or, LC-MS, to generate a "fingerprint" unique to a given seed oil. Using this technology, he has identified unusual molecular species in castor oil, and he has also generated a fingerprint of extra virgin (EV) olive oil.

In addition to research applications, this technique is applicable to detection of adulteration in premium oils such as EV olive oil. Since such oils sell at a high premium compared to commodity oils, the temptation to adulterate oils has a clear economic incentive. Detecting adulteration protects consumers from fraud. Moreover, it provides consumers with food safety assurances ??? in 1981, an incident in Spain resulted in the death of nearly 700 people who consumed oil adulterated to resemble olive oil. Dr. Lin's technology is of potential use to Action Agencies such as FSIS and Customs Agencies as well as oil processors and importers.

Contact: Dr. Jiann-Tsyh Lin <> | 510-559-5764

Dr. Ann Blechl Presents Research to Joint ARS/American Bakers Association Meeting

Plant Tissue CultureIn response to invitations, CIU Research Geneticist Ann Blechl presented overviews and her research in wheat genetic engineering at the joint ARS/American Bakers Association meeting October 29 in Manhattan, KS, and at the annual meeting of the Oklahoma Growers Association December 13 in Oklahoma City. These invitations resulted from renewed interest in using biotechnology to make wheat more competitive with maize in yield and to improve wheat's value to end-users.

Patent Issues on Gene to Limit Glycoalkaloid Production in Potatoes

SCRICIU potato molecular biologists William Belknap, Kent McCue, Dave Rockhold and Paul Allen have taken part in a long-standing collaborative research program with the Scottish Crop Research Institute to reduce natural glycoalkaloid toxicants in potatoes. In October, the patent ???Solanum Tuberosum _-Solanine/_-Chaconine Rhamnosyl Transferase Sequences and Uses Thereof??? (U.S. Patent No. 7,439,419) was issued by the USPTO regarding regulation the terminal step in the glycoalkaloid biosynthetic pathway.

2008: Second Quarter Report

Dr. Ann Blechl Discusses Paths and Obstacles to the Release of G.E. Wheat

Wheat FieldARS wheat geneticist Ann Blechl, of the Crop Improvement and Utilization Research Unit, attended an April 2008 meeting in Kansas City to discuss possible paths and obstacles to the release of genetically engineered (GE) wheat into commercial production. The April meeting brought together representatives of the wheat milling, baking, and export industries with representatives of wheat producers, seed and biotechnology companies to consider issues that so far have discouraged the release of GE wheat into commerce anywhere in the world. The closest to release had been glyphosate-resistant wheat developed by Monsanto Corporation, which withdrew its petitions to APHIS and FDA for commercialization in the spring of 2004 due to opposition from U.S. trading partners.

In the intervening years, there has been increasing economic pressure on U.S. producers to switch from wheat to GE corn and soybeans, where possible, because of the latter's higher yields. Both the National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates have issued statements in support of biotechnology as a way to increase wheat productivity. At the meeting, Dr. Blechl provided a description of improvements in wheat transformation technology that her lab is implementing to address some of the public's concerns about GE wheat.

More information at

2008: First Quarter Report

Dr. Susan Altenbach: "Understanding Plant Food Allergens"

Susan Altenbach gave an invited presentation entitled "Understanding plant food allergens: An important part of risk analysis" at the 2nd Symposium for Agricultural Biotechnology Risk Analysis Research in College Park, MD (December 5-6, 2007). Her presentation highlighted recent findings on the regulation of wheat genes encoding potential food allergens.

Wheat is one of the top eight foods responsible for IgE-mediated food allergies. Three recent publications by Susan Altenbach and colleagues address the expression of genes encoding potential food allergens in developing wheat grain. These include genes for omega gliadins, gluten proteins associated with a life threatening anaphylactic response, wheatwins, pathogenesis-related proteins that have significant identities with known allergenic proteins from other plants, and non-specific lipid transfer proteins, shown to react with sera from patients with wheat allergies. These studies are the first step towards developing methods for detection of food allergens in flour and food products.

Altenbach, S.B. and Kothari, K.M. Omega gliadin genes expressed in Triticum aestivum cv Butte 86: effects of post-anthesis fertilizer on transcript accumulation during grain development. Journal of Cereal Science 46: 169-177. 2007.

Altenbach, S.B., Kothari, K.M., Tanaka, C.K. and Hurkman, W.J. Genes encoding the PR-4 protein wheatwin are developmentally regulated in wheat grains and respond to high temperatures during grainfill. Plant Science 173: 135-143. 2007.

Altenbach, S.B., Kothari, K.M., Tanaka, C.K. and Hurkman, W.J. Expression of 9-kDa non-specific lipid transfer protein genes in developing wheat grains is enhanced by high temperatures but not by post-anthesis fertilizer. Journal of Cereal Science, 2008, available online 4/11/07.

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