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Cauliflower gene eyed as nutrition booster


March 12, 2008
By Fruit & Vegetable

Topics

Scientists in the U.S. are working
with genes taken from an orange cauliflower discovered in a Canadian
field three decades ago in hopes of making food crops more nutritious.

cauliflower
U.S. scientists hope research involving an orange cauliflower, orig-inally discovered in Canada, can help re-searchers understand how certain components of food crops can help people become healthier. 

Scientists in the U.S. are working with genes taken from an orange cauliflower discovered in a Canadian field three decades ago in hopes of making food crops more nutritious. Li Li, a molecular biologist based in Ithaca, N.Y., is using the cauliflower to identify genes and define molecular mechanisms that regulate nutrients in plant-based foods. She is making significant headway using this gene – dubbed “Or” for the colour orange – to induce high levels of beta-carotene in food crops. She and colleagues at Cornell University isolated the gene last year. In cauliflower, Or – which Li describes as a semi-dominant gene mutation – promotes high beta-carotene accumulation in various plant tissues that normally don’t have carotenoids. These studies can help researchers understand how carotenoid synthesis and accumulation are regulated in plants. This, in turn, can lead to strategies for increasing carotenoid content in food crops for improving human nutrition and health, she says. Li’s current work, which is partially detailed in the December 2006 issue of Plant Cell, is part of a concentrated strategy to apply genomics and related disciplines toward improving the nutritional quality and disease resistance of important food crops.

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