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Plant Cell. 2003 Dec;15(12):3007-19. Epub 2003 Nov 20.

Engineering vitamin E content: from Arabidopsis mutant to soy oil.

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Monsanto Company, Calgene Campus, Davis, California 95616, USA.


We report the identification and biotechnological utility of a plant gene encoding the tocopherol (vitamin E) biosynthetic enzyme 2-methyl-6-phytylbenzoquinol methyltransferase. This gene was identified by map-based cloning of the Arabidopsis mutation vitamin E pathway gene3-1 (vte3-1), which causes increased accumulation of delta-tocopherol and decreased gamma-tocopherol in the seed. Enzyme assays of recombinant protein supported the hypothesis that At-VTE3 encodes a 2-methyl-6-phytylbenzoquinol methyltransferase. Seed-specific expression of At-VTE3 in transgenic soybean reduced seed delta-tocopherol from 20 to 2%. These results confirm that At-VTE3 protein catalyzes the methylation of 2-methyl-6-phytylbenzoquinol in planta and show the utility of this gene in altering soybean tocopherol composition. When At-VTE3 was coexpressed with At-VTE4 (gamma-tocopherol methyltransferase) in soybean, the seed accumulated to >95% alpha-tocopherol, a dramatic change from the normal 10%, resulting in a greater than eightfold increase of alpha-tocopherol and an up to fivefold increase in seed vitamin E activity. These findings demonstrate the utility of a gene identified in Arabidopsis to alter the tocopherol composition of commercial seed oils, a result with both nutritional and food quality implications.

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