Canola plants over-expressing a bacterial phytoene synthase gene
also had a reduced level of chlorophyll, changed structure of plastids,
changed composition of fatty acids, and delayed germination.
Canola (Brassica napus ssp. Oleifera), also known as oilseed rape.
Phytoene synthase gene crtB from the bacterium Erwinia
uredovora fused to the promoter, napin, from Brassica. The
promoter is seed-specific to ensure that the transgene is expressed in
Increase the amounts of carotenoids in canola seeds so that canola could
eventually be used as commercial source of carotenoids. Normally, canola
seeds do not accumulate carotenoids.
The transgenic mature canola seeds contained up to a 50-fold increase in
carotenoids, making the embryo visibly orange. The predominant carotenoids
were alpha- and beta-carotene.
The level of chlorophyll was reduced in developing seeds.
Level of gamma tocopherol (a form of vitamin E) was decreased in
The electron microscopic structure of some plastids in the embryos was
altered: the membrane structure was changed and thread-like bodies of
unknown nature appeared.
The amount of phytoene was increased compared with control
plants. Phytoene is normally an intermediate product of metabolism and
does not accumulate.
The amount of lutein and xanthophylls was not higher, although they also
are end products of the carotenoid pathway.
The composition of fatty acids was altered: there was more oleic acid
and less linoleic and linolenic acid. This "alteration in fatty acid
composition was unexpected" (p. 408). The link between fatty acid
synthesis and the carotenoid pathway is not known.
Germination in transgenic seeds was delayed by one to two days compared
to control plants.
As the authors note, this study shows the remarkable ability of the
canola plant to accumulate large amounts of carotenoids in its seeds
where normally carotenoids are not stored. But this channeling of the
plant's flexibility via genetic modification does not occur in isolation;
it is accompanied by the other significant biochemical, physiological,
and morphological changes in the seeds described above.
Shewmaker, C., J. A. Sheehy, M. Daley, S. Colburn et
al. (1999). "Seed-specific Overexpression of Phytoene Synthase: Increase
in Carotenoids and Other Metabolic Effects," The Plant Journal
vol. 20, pp. 401-12.
Calgene LLC, Davis, California; Monsanto Company, St. Louis, Missouri.
Not mentioned, but see author affiliations.
Not on the market as of 2008.
Copyright 2008 The Nature