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Title: Importance of Genotype on Carotenoid and Chlorophyll Levels in Broccoli Heads

item Farnham, Mark

Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/20/2009
Publication Date: 8/10/2009
Citation: Farnham, M.W., Kopsell, D.A. 2009. Importance of Genotype on Carotenoid and Chlorophyll Levels in Broccoli Heads. HortScience. 44:1248-1253.

Interpretive Summary: Carotenoids are fat soluble, plant compounds found in vegetable produce that are reported to confer health-promoting effects to humans when consumed in the diet. Indeed, plant carotenoids are the most important source of vitamin A in the human diet, and there is increasing evidence that these carotenoids can protect humans against certain specific chronic ailments including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and age-related sight degeneration. Broccoli has emerged as the most important cabbage family vegetable in the United States, and although the cabbage family is known as a good source of carotenoids, specific information about the carotenoid content of broccoli is lacking. With this in mind, this research was conducted to determine the general makeup of different carotenoids in field-grown broccoli heads and to discern the relative importance of genetics versus the environment in affecting exact levels of these important compounds. This work showed that a particular carotenoid, called lutein, is the most abundant carotenoid in broccoli heads making up to about half of all the carotenoids in the head. Results also showed that genetics play a more important role in the expression of lutein levels than does the environment. Other carotenoids like beta carotene, violaxanthin, neoxanthin, and antheraxanthin are also measured in broccoli heads, but lutein is clearly the most important. Information from this work will be very useful to plant breeders working to modify the carotenoid content of broccoli and other related cabbage family vegetables. Results also provide a more accurate picture than previously available about levels of carotenoids that consumers derive in their diet when eating broccoli.

Technical Abstract: Carotenoids are secondary plant metabolites in vegetables known to be essential in the human diet and reported to confer various positive health-promoting effects when consumed. Brassica oleracea L. vegetables like kale, cabbage, and broccoli are recognized as excellent sources of dietary carotenoids. Broccoli has emerged as the most important B. oleracea crop in the United States and it likely supplies more carotenoids to the US diet than the other crops of this species. However, very little is known about the general carotenoid profile of this important vegetable or the levels of specific carotenoids and how they might vary among genotypes. Thus, the objectives of this study were: to assess carotenoid profiles of different inbred broccoli heads; to assess chlorophyll concentrations measured simultaneously during carotenoid assays; to determine the relative effects of genotype versus environment in influencing head carotenoid levels; and to examine phenotypic correlations between carotenoid levels and other traits. Results show lutein to be the most abundant carotenoid in broccoli heads ranging from 65.3 to 139.6 ug/g dry mass (DM) among nine inbreds tested in three environments. Genotype had a highly significant effect on lutein levels in broccoli heads and the ratio of genotypic to phenotypic variance for this carotenoid was 0.84. Violaxanthin also exhibited a significant genotype effect but it was found at lower levels (17.9 to 35.4 ug/g DM) than lutein. ß-carotene and neoxanthin were detected at levels similar to violaxanthin, but genotypic differences were not detected when all environments were compared. This was also true for antheraxanthin which was detectable in all genotypes at lower levels (mean of 13.3 ug/g DM) than the other carotenoids. Significant genotypic differences were observed for both Chlorophyll a and b among the studied inbreds; however, no environment or genotype-by-environment effects were observed with these compounds. Results indicated that most carotenoids measured were positively and significantly correlated with one another, indicating that higher levels of one carotenoid were typically associated with higher levels of others. This study emphasizes the relative importance of lutein in broccoli heads and the key role that genotype plays with this compound, ultimately indicating that breeding cultivars with increased levels of this particular carotenoid may be feasible.