Since the creation of \"Golden Rice\", biofortification of plant-derived foods is a promising strategy for the alleviation of nutritional deficiencies. Potato is the most important staple food for mankind after the cereals rice, wheat and maize, and is extremely poor in provitamin A carotenoids.
We transformed potato with a mini-pathway of bacterial origin, driving the synthesis of beta-carotene (Provitamin A) from geranylgeranyl diphosphate. Three genes, encoding phytoene synthase (CrtB), phytoene desaturase (CrtI) and lycopene beta-cyclase (CrtY) from Erwinia, under tuber-specific or constitutive promoter control, were used. 86 independent transgenic lines, containing six different promoter/gene combinations, were produced and analyzed. Extensive regulatory effects on the expression of endogenous genes for carotenoid biosynthesis are observed in transgenic lines. Constitutive expression of the CrtY and/or CrtI genes interferes with the establishment of transgenosis and with the accumulation of leaf carotenoids. Expression of all three genes, under tuber-specific promoter control, results in tubers with a deep yellow (\"golden\") phenotype without any adverse leaf phenotypes. In these tubers, carotenoids increase approx. 20-fold, to 114 mcg/g dry weight and beta-carotene 3600-fold, to 47 mcg/g dry weight.
This is the highest carotenoid and beta-carotene content reported for biofortified potato as well as for any of the four major staple foods (the next best event being \"Golden Rice 2\", with 31 mcg/g dry weight beta-carotene). Assuming a beta-carotene to retinol conversion of 6:1, this is sufficient to provide 50% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin A with 250 gms (fresh weight) of \"golden\" potatoes.
PLoS ONE (2007) 2 (4): e350. [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000350]