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Nat Biotechnol. 2005 Jul;23(7):890-5. Epub 2005 Jun 12.

Fruit-specific RNAi-mediated suppression of DET1 enhances carotenoid and flavonoid content in tomatoes.

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Cell Signaling Laboratory, Stazione Zoologica, Villa Comunale, I-80121 Naples, Italy.


Tomatoes are a principal dietary source of carotenoids and flavonoids, both of which are highly beneficial for human health. Overexpression of genes encoding biosynthetic enzymes or transcription factors have resulted in tomatoes with improved carotenoid or flavonoid content, but never with both. We attempted to increase tomato fruit nutritional value by suppressing an endogenous photomorphogenesis regulatory gene, DET1, using fruit-specific promoters combined with RNA interference (RNAi) technology. Molecular analysis indicated that DET1 transcripts were indeed specifically degraded in transgenic fruits. Both carotenoid and flavonoid contents were increased significantly, whereas other parameters of fruit quality were largely unchanged. These results demonstrate that manipulation of a plant regulatory gene can simultaneously influence the production of several phytonutrients generated from independent biosynthetic pathways, and provide a novel example of the use of organ-specific gene silencing to improve the nutritional value of plant-derived products.

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