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Genetic Engineering

Deep Red Rhapsody In Violet Hues

9 months, 3 weeks ago

1372  0
Posted on Nov 03, 2018, 1 a.m.

Colourful betalain pigments made by such things as beets, most notably, may help to boost nutritional value of crops and the resistance to disease. Betalain in highly nutritious redish-violet and yellow pigments are known for their antioxidant properties, and are also used as food dyes, a study suggests it has opened the path to numerous uses for it as published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

Colour is not only just appealing to the eye in the plant kingdom, it can be a warning of poison, it protects the plants against disease, attracts pollinating insects, and can confer health benefits. The Weizmann Institute of Science has conducted a study suggesting the potential numerous ways of uses for betalains has now been opened.

Cactus fruit, flowers and certain edible plants make betalains. When compared to the 2 other major groups of plant pigments in nature, betalain pigments are fairly rare. Their synthesis in plants was rather poorly understood until recently. Four o’clock flowers and red beets were used in analysis for a conducting study using RNA sequencing and other technologies to identify a previously unknown gene that is involved in betalain synthesis which revealed the biochemical reactions plants use to convert amino acid tyrosine into betalains.

Researchers proceeded genetically engineered yeast in order to produce betalains to take on the challenge of reproducing betalain synthesis in edible plants that normally do not make these pigments. Vivid living colour announced the team’s successfulness. Potatoes, eggplants, and tomatoes were produced with redish-violet flesh and skin. Exact location of the betalain produced was able to be controlled by the researchers such as making the pigment to be produced in the fruit only but not in the stem or leaves.

Using the same approach they had used previously that had achieved the previous successful goals the team caused white petunias to produce pale violet flowers, and tobacco plant to flower in hues from yellow to pink. Desired hues were achieved by causing the relevant genes to be expressed in a different combination during the process of betalain synthesis. The findings may be used to create ornamental plants having colour that can be altered on demand.

Colour change was not just the only positive and successful outcome, healthy antioxidant activity was increased by about 60% in regards to betalain producing tomatoes than as seen in the average ones. It was also discovered that betalains protect plants against grey mold which can cost the loss of billions of dollars worth of agricultural crops annually, the resistance to Botrytis cinerea increased by close to 90% in the plants that were engineered to make betalains.

Betalain was produced by the scientists in versions that do not exists in nature. These findings could possibly be used in the future to fortify a range of crops with betalains to increase nutritional value and disease resistance. Some of the new pigments the researchers engineered may possibly have the potential to be more stable than that of naturally occurring betalains.

Some of these findings may prove useful in the drug manufacturing industry. When betalains are beginning to be manufactured plant tyrosine is converted into a chemical called L-dopa, which is used as a drug itself and serves as a starting material in the manufacturing of other drugs, particularly opiates. Plants and microbes that are engineered to convert tyrosine into L-dopa may serve as a source for this material.

Materials provided by Weizmann Institute of Science.

Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Guy Polturak, Noam Grossman, David Vela-Corcia, Yonghui Dong, Adi Nudel, Margarita Pliner, Maggie Levy, Ilana Rogachev, Asaph Aharoni. Engineered gray mold resistance, antioxidant capacity, and pigmentation in betalain-producing crops and ornamentals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; 201707176 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1707176114

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