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Metab Eng. 2002 Oct;4(4):263-72.

Genetic engineering of a zeaxanthin-rich potato by antisense inactivation and co-suppression of carotenoid epoxidation.

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  • 1Universität Konstanz, Lehrstuhl für Physiologie und Biochemie der Pflanzen, Fachbereich Biologie, Germany.


Zeaxanthin is an important dietary carotenoid but its abundance in our food is low. In order to provide a better supply of zeaxanthin in a staple crop, two different potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) varieties were genetically modified. By transformation with sense and antisense constructs encoding zeaxanthin epoxidase, zeaxanthin conversion to violaxanthin was inhibited. Both approaches (antisense and co-suppression) yielded potato tubers with higher levels of zeaxanthin. Depending on the transgenic lines and tuber development, zeaxanthin content was elevated 4 to 130-fold reaching values up to 40 microg/g dry weight. As a consequence of the genetic manipulation, the amount of violaxanthin was diminished dramatically and in some cases the monoepoxy intermediate antheraxanthin accumulated. Between one and eight copies of the sense or antisense epoxidase gene fragments were integrated into the genome. In addition, most of the transformants with higher zeaxanthin levels showed also increased total carotenoid contents (up to 5.7-fold) and some of them exhibited reduced amounts of lutein. The increase in total carotenoids suggests that the genetic modification affects the regulation of the whole carotenoid biosynthetic pathway in potato tubers. Northern blot analysis demonstrated that upregulation of carotenogenesis in the transgenics is accompanied by substantial higher phytoene synthase transcript levels in 6-week-old tubers and a very slight increase of the beta-carotene hydroxylase transcript. The amount of the deoxyxylulose 5-phosphate synthase mRNA was very similar in wild type and transformed tubers. Abscisic acid content of tubers remained unchanged whereas alpha-tocopherol was 2 to 3 fold elevated in the transformants.

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