Orange Cauliflower May Help Crop Scientists Boost Nutrition
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Hank Becker, (301) 504-1624, email@example.com
July 7, 1999
An orange cauliflower plant, found growing in a Canadian field nearly 30
years ago, could provide important genetic clues for boosting the
nutritional value of many different crops. The mutant cauliflower produces
so much beta-carotene--an orange pigment in carrots and other fruits and
vegetables--that normally white parts of the plant turn orange.
Beta-carotene belongs to a class of compounds known as carotenoids,
important to human nutrition.
Plant molecular biologist David F. Garvin at the Agricultural Research
Service is studying the mutant cauliflower as a model for unraveling the
biochemical and molecular basis of carotenoid production in crops. Chemical
analyses indicate beta-carotene concentrations in some tissues of the mutant
are several-hundred-fold higher than normal cauliflower, according to Garvin
at the U.S. Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory in Ithaca, N.Y. The lab is
part of ARS, USDA's chief research agency.
Beta-carotene has antioxidant properties that may reduce the incidence of
cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer. It's also an important
source of vitamin A. But many crops important to human diets contain little
or no beta-carotene. Garvin hopes the research will ultimately provide
information needed to genetically engineer increased carotenoid content in
important crops like wheat and rice that lack the compounds.
Various characteristics of the mutant have led Garvin to postulate that an
altered gene in it may act as an important switch for turning carotenoid
production on or off. The programming error, according to Garvin, is due to
an alteration in one gene. His preliminary molecular studies suggest this
gene alteration may influence other genes required for synthesizing
beta-carotene. A story about the mutant cauliflower appears in the July
issue of Agricultural Research magazine and on the web at:
Scientific contact: David F. Garvin, ARS U.S. Plant, Soil and Nutrition
Laboratory, Ithaca, N.Y., phone (607) 255-7308, fax (607) 255-1132,
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