Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » College Station, Texas » Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center » Insect Control and Cotton Disease Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #318730

Title: Ultra-low gossypol cottonseed: gene-silencing opens up a vast, but underutilized protein resource for human nutrition

item RATHORE, K. - Texas A&M University
item WEDEGAERTNER, T. - Cotton, Inc
item HAKE, K. - Cotton, Inc
item CAMPBELL, L. - Texas A&M University
item PALLE, S. - Texas A&M University
item PANDEYA, D. - Texas A&M University
item SUNIKUMAR, G. - Texas A&M University
item Puckhaber, Lorraine
item Stipanovic, Robert - Bob

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/2/2015
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Cotton, grown mainly for its fiber, is a major crop in several developing and developed countries across the globe. In 2012, 48.8 million metric tons (MMT) of cottonseed was produced worldwide as a by-product of the 25.9 MMT of cotton lint production (FAO Production Statistics). This amount of cottonseed, containing nearly 11 MMT of protein, can potentially provide the protein requirements of ~600 million people per year at a rate of 50 g protein/day. However, gossypol, a noxious compound present in the seed glands, has historically rendered cottonseed unfit as food for human consumption or even as feed for non-ruminant animals. A major portion of this abundant agricultural resource is utilized simply as feed for the ruminant animals either as whole seeds or as meal following oil extraction. Therefore, the elimination of gossypol from cottonseed has been a long-standing goal of geneticists. The “glandless mutant cotton” cultivated by Native Americans in the Hopi region of Arizona and discovered by breeders in the 1950s was free of glands and, therefore, free of gossypol. Given this seemingly important trait, a number of studies were launched in many parts of the world to ascertain the nutritional value and commercial viability of this gossypol-free seed. Feeding studies were conducted on swine, poultry and aquaculture species utilizing cottonseed meal derived from the glandless cottonseed. In addition, investigations to assess its utility for human nutrition were also launched in several countries. The results from these studies were very promising in that these showed cottonseed to be a useful source of protein. Despite this promise, “glandless cotton” proved commercially unviable, largely because of the increased susceptibility of the plant to insect pests due to the systemic absence of glands that contain gossypol and related defense compounds. Thus, the potential of cottonseed in contributing to the nutrition requirements of the burgeoning world population remained unrealized. Compared to traditional plant breeding, biotechnology offers a more precise mechanism to alter certain traits. Using biotechnological tools, we are able to “turn off” gossypol production specifically in the seed, and not the whole plant, thereby maintaining the plant’s natural defense mechanisms against insects and diseases, and making the nutritional benefits of the seed more widely accessible.