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ARS Home » Plains Area » Houston, Texas » Children's Nutrition Research Center » Research » Research Project #445961

Research Project: Factors Regulating Plant Nutritional Quality and Productivity

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Project Number: 3092-10700-066-001-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Apr 1, 2024
End Date: Mar 31, 2029

Objective 1: Establish abiotic tolerant and nutritionally improved legumes, assess their nutritional quality and productivity, and investigate the mechanisms regulating nutritional quality and productivity under non-stress and abiotic stress conditions. Sub-objective 1.A: Isolation/generation of M. truncatula with an increase in drought tolerance. Sub-objective 1.B: Isolation/generation of M. truncatula with reduced phytate. Sub-objective 1.C: Assess the productivity of WT and mutant plants grown with or without drought stress. Sub-objective 1.D: Assess the nutritional composition of modified plants grown with or without drought stress. Sub-objective 1.E: Combine traits of selected drought resistant and reduced phytate mutants. Sub-objective 1.F: Investigate the mechanisms regulating drought tolerance and phytate deposition. Objective 2: Determine the intestinal uptake and metabolism of tomato phytochemicals in the presence of different amounts/types of steroidal alkaloids. Sub-objective 2.A: Define the impact of tomato steroidal alkaloids on carotenoid uptake. Sub-objective 2.B: Determine if tomato steroidal alkaloids accumulate in breastmilk and are delivered to nursing infants. Sub-objective 2.C: Construct a closed-system growth chamber to generate intrinsically labeled plant material and phytochemicals. Objective 3: Determine how calcium oxalate consumption impacts gut microbial composition and regulates calcium bioavailability. Sub-objective 3.A: Establish a mouse diet to evaluate the effects of plant dietary Ca-oxalate on gut microbial composition and bone density. Sub-objective 3.B: Utilize the dietary model to determine Ca absorption from kale and spinach when mice have microbiomes derived from long-term dietary exposure to diets varying only in Ca-oxalate content.

We will address nutritional and productivity issues associated with climate change by genetically modifying genes in Medicago truncatula that may enhance drought tolerance or improve nutritional quality by reducing phytate. Plants exhibiting the desired modification(s) will be assessed for changes in nutritional quality/productivity under abiotic and non-stress conditions. Investigation into the mechanisms conferring the drought tolerance and nutritional improvement will be initiated using molecular-genetic methodologies. Second, we will focus on steroidal alkaloids in tomatoes and developing novel systems to intrinsically label crops. Thirdly, we will investigate the impact of calcium oxalate consumption from plant-based diets on the microbiome. This study identifies how calcium oxalate consumption alters microbiome composition and impacts nutrient absorption and bone density. Overall, the information gained will provide scientists a better understanding of the factors regulating plant nutritional quality and productivity.