New research has identified genes that control vitamin E content in maize grain, a finding that could lead to improving the nutritional profile of this staple crop.
Cornell University scientists and colleagues from other institutions combined different types of genetic association analyses to identify 14 genes across the genome that were involved in the synthesis of vitamin E. Six genes were newly discovered to encode proteins that contribute to a class of antioxidant compounds called tocochromanols, collectively known as vitamin E. Along with antioxidant properties, tocochromanols have been associated with good heart health in humans and proper functioning in plants.
"We have established a near-complete foundation for the genetic improvement of vitamin E in grain of maize and other major cereals," said Michael Gore, associate professor of plant breeding and genetics and a co-corresponding author of the study published in the journal, The Plant Cell.
"There has been talk, among breeders working to increase provitamin A in maize, that we could increase vitamin E at the same time," said Christine Diepenbrock, a graduate student in Gore's lab, and the paper's first author. "They are related compounds biochemically, and tocochromanols are essential for seed viability in that they prevent seed oils from going rancid throughout seed storage, germination and early seedling development."
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Christine H Diepenbrock et al, Novel Loci Underlie Natural Variation in Vitamin E Levels in Maize Grain, The Plant Cell (2017). DOI: 10.1105/tpc.17.00475