Examining strategies to facilitate vitamin B1 biofortification of plants by genetic engineering

Pourcel, Lucille; Moulin, Michael; Fitzpatrick, Teresa B.
May 2013
Frontiers in Plant Science;May2013, Vol. 4, p1
Academic Journal
Thiamin (vitamin B1) is made by plants and microorganisms but is an essential micronutrient in the human diet. All organisms require it as a cofactor in its form as thiamin pyrophosphate (TPP) for the activity of key enzymes of central metabolism. In humans, deficiency is widespread particularly in populations where polished rice is a major component of the diet. Considerable progress has been made on the elucidation of the biosynthesis pathway within the last few years enabling concrete strategies for biofortification purposes to be devised, with a particular focus here on genetic engineering. Furthermore, the vitamin has been shown to play a role in both abiotic and biotic stress responses. The precursors for de novo biosynthesis of thiamin differ between microorganisms and plants. Bacteria use intermediates derived from purine and isoprenoid biosynthesis, whereas the pathway in yeast involves the use of compounds from the vitamin B3 and B6 groups. Plants on the other hand use a combination of the bacterial and yeast pathways and there is subcellular partitioning of the biosynthesis steps. Specifically, thiamin biosynthesis occurs in the chloroplast of plants through the separate formation of the pyrimidine and thiazole moieties, which are then coupled to form thiamin monophosphate (TMP). Phosphorylation of thiamin to form TPP occurs in the cytosol. Therefore, thiamin (orTMP) must be exported from the chloroplast to the cytosol for the latter step to be executed. The regulation of biosynthesis is mediated through riboswitches, where binding of the product TPP to the pre-mRNA of a biosynthetic gene modulates expression. Here we examine and hypothesize on genetic engineering approaches attempting to increase the thiamin content employing knowledge gained with the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. We will discuss the regulatory steps that need to be taken into consideration and can be used a prerequisite for devising such strategies in crop plants.


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