News Release

From kale to carotenoid powerhouse: a breakthrough in plant nutrition

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Nanjing Agricultural University The Academy of Science

BoaBZR1.1 promoted the biosynthesis of carotenoids and chlorophylls in Chinese kale.


BoaBZR1.1 promoted the biosynthesis of carotenoids and chlorophylls in Chinese kale. a Phenotypes of T1 generation of BoaBZR1.1-OE Chinese kale. b Contents of carotenoids and chlorophylls in T1 generation of BoaBZR1.1-OE Chinese kale. Bars are means ± SD of three biological replicates. The same letter in the same histogram indicates that there is no significant difference between the values tested by least significant difference (LSD) (P < 0.05). c Expression of carotenoid biosynthetic genes in T1 generation of BoaBZR1.1-OE Chinese kale. d Expression of chlorophyll biosynthetic and degrading genes in T1 generation of BoaBZR1.1-OE Chinese kale.

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Credit: Horticulture Research

A recent study has identified a crucial regulatory mechanism in Chinese kale, potentially revolutionizing its nutritional profile. By manipulating the BoaBZR1.1 transcription factor, researchers significantly enhanced carotenoid levels, crucial antioxidants for human health. This advancement opens pathways for improving vegetable nutrition through genetic engineering.

Carotenoids, vital antioxidants in plants, are integral for human health, enhancing immunity and preventing diseases. However, many vegetables, including Chinese kale, naturally exhibit low carotenoid levels. To address this nutritional gap, scientists are exploring genetic pathways to increase these beneficial compounds in crops, aiming to improve their health benefits significantly. This approach leverages advanced genetic techniques to potentially enrich the dietary value of commonly consumed vegetables.

Published in Horticulture Research in April 2024, the study (DOI: 10.1093/hr/uhae104) by Sichuan Agricultural University highlights the pivotal role of the BoaBZR1.1 gene in enhancing carotenoid biosynthesis in Chinese kale. This research pinpoints a key genetic target for augmenting vegetable nutritional qualities, providing valuable insights into the potential of genetic engineering to increase essential nutrients.

The study centered on BoaBZR1.1, a transcription factor in the brassinosteroid signaling pathway essential for plant growth and stress responses. Activation of BoaBZR1.1 led to a substantial increase in carotenoid biosynthesis gene expression, boosting both carotenoid and chlorophyll levels. This genetic enhancement not only raised the nutritional value but also enhanced the visual appeal of Chinese kale. The findings demonstrate an effective strategy to enhance the nutritional profiles of vegetables via targeted genetic engineering, potentially applicable to a wide range of crops. This approach marks a significant progression in agricultural biotechnology for improving dietary health.

Genetic engineering holds remarkable potential for overcoming dietary deficiencies," remarked Dr. Yi Tang, a study co-author and noted horticulturist. "This study illustrates how leveraging plant natural mechanisms can produce crops that are not only more nutritious but also more adaptable to environmental challenges."

The implications of this study extend beyond improving Chinese kale, offering prospects for enhancing other crops to address global nutritional deficits and support food security. This research paves the way for a future where crops are optimized for health benefits, potentially transforming global dietary patterns and contributing to sustainable agriculture.





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Funding information

This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (32372732, 32072586, 32372683, 31500247), Natural Science Foundation of Sichuan Province (2022NSFSC1689), Project of New Varieties Breeding of Sichuan Vegetable Innovation Team (sccxtd-2023-05), Agro-Industry Technology Research System of China (CARS-23-A07), ‘131’ Innovative Team Construction Project of Tianjin (201923), and the Guizhou Provincial Key Technology R&D Program ((2021) No.207).

About Horticulture Research

Horticulture Research is an open access journal of Nanjing Agricultural University and ranked number one in the Horticulture category of the Journal Citation Reports ™ from Clarivate, 2022. The journal is committed to publishing original research articles, reviews, perspectives, comments, correspondence articles and letters to the editor related to all major horticultural plants and disciplines, including biotechnology, breeding, cellular and molecular biology, evolution, genetics, inter-species interactions, physiology, and the origination and domestication of crops.

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