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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Albany, California » Western Regional Research Center » Crop Improvement and Genetics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #230773

Title: Potato Glycoalkaloids, Past Present and Future

item McCue, Kent

Submitted to: Fruit, Vegetable, and Cereal Science and Biotechnology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/18/2008
Publication Date: 5/1/2009
Citation: Mc Cue, K.F. 2009. Potato Glycoalkaloids, Past Present and Future. Fruit, Vegetable, and Cereal Science and Biotechnology. 3:65-71.

Interpretive Summary: Potato glycoalkaloids occur in many members of the Solanaceae plant family including commercially important crops such as potato, tomato and eggplant. These compounds are believed to owe their evolutionary origins and diversity serving a function to deter pest and predators from overfeeding on the plant. Theses compounds are also bitter and attributed to be important for the pleasing flavor of potatoes. However, at higher concentrations these compounds are bitter and can cause irritation. Therefore limits for these compounds have been set for the development of new varieties of potatoes. Plant breeders rely on the diversity of beneficial traits found in different cultivars and wild relatives to improve and develop new varieties. Included in varietal development is the monitoring and manipulation of glycoalkaloids and related compounds to ensure food safety as well as natural resistance to predators and herbivores.

Technical Abstract: The steroidal glycoalkaloids of the potato are naturally occurring specialty metabolites of questionable desirability. Although undoubtedly originating under selection as antifeedants against herbivorous pests, glycoalkaloids no longer function as the primary feeding deterrent. However, due to their potential toxicity guidelines persist as to the maximal allowable concentrations for newly developed cultivars. The origins of the glycoalkaloids lie in the ancient relatives of the modern potato and they continue to remain of consequence as breeders seek to benefit the wealth of genetic diversity for performance, nutrition and resistance from wild relatives. In recent years the genes encoding the enzymatic steps responsible for their synthesis have begun to be elucidated. This in turn has presented the possibility to manipulate these genes to control accumulation and increase the availability of diverse biological resources for the development of new and improved cultivars with enhanced agronomic, processing and nutritional characteristics.