Increasing the Vitamins in Maize, Genetically
Maize is a staple crop in many communities worldwide, but it’s not the most vitamin-rich. Michael A. Gore, School of Integrative Plant Science, Plant Breeding and Genetics, along with collaborators at Iowa State and Michigan State Universities, is working to identify a subset of genes in the maize genome that determines the levels of five essential and limiting dietary vitamins in grain. These include vitamin E and the four B vitamins: B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and B6 (pyridoxine). By combining approaches similar to those used in the Human Genome project, the researchers will identify alleles, special variants of the vitamin genes, and learn how to put them together to generate higher amounts of vitamins in maize grain.
The project leverages the tremendous genetic and genomic tool sets developed in maize during the past decade. Using these tools, researchers are advancing and accelerating the fundamental understanding of the genes, alleles, and genetic mechanisms controlling synthesis and accumulation of vitamins in maize grain.
An important outcome of the research will be to understand how to enhance these micronutrient levels in grain so that maize-dominant diets can provide more balanced nutrition. In addition, this research will provide guiding principles for parallel efforts in other agricultural crops. The model will thus enable predictive breeding and metabolic engineering of more nutritious crops worldwide.