Improved folate accumulation in genetically modified maize and wheat

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Abstract or Summary

Folates are indispensable co-factors for one-carbon metabolism in all organisms. In humans, suboptimal folate intake results in serious disorders. One promising strategy for improving human folate status is to enhance folate levels in food crops by metabolic engineering. In this study, we cloned two GmGCHI (GTP cyclohydrolase I) genes (Gm8gGCHI and Gm3gGCHI) and one GmADCS (aminodeoxychorismate synthase) gene from soybean, which are responsible for synthesizing the folate precursors pterin and p-aminobenzoate, respectively. We initially confirmed their functions in transgenic Arabidopsis plants and found that Gm8gGCHI increased pterin and folate production more than Gm3gGCHI did. We then co-expressed Gm8gGCHI and GmADCS driven by endosperm-specific promoters in maize and wheat, two major staple crops, to boost their folate metabolic flux. A 4.2-fold and 2.3-fold increase in folate levels were observed in transgenic maize and wheat grains, respectively. To optimize wheat folate enhancement, codon-optimized Gm8gGCHI and tomato LeADCS genes under the control of a wheat endosperm-specific glutenin promoter (1Dx5) were co-transformed. This yielded a 5.6-fold increase in folate in transgenic wheat grains (Gm8gGCHI+/LeADCS+). This two-gene co-expression strategy therefore has the potential to greatly enhance folate levels in maize and wheat, thus improving their nutritional value.

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