Seed-specific overexpression of phytoene synthase: increase in carotenoids and other metabolic effects

Plant J. 1999 Nov;20(4):401-412X. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-313x.1999.00611.x.


A bacterial phytoene synthase (crtB) gene was overexpressed in a seed-specific manner and the protein product targeted to the plastid in Brassica napus (canola). The resultant embryos from these transgenic plants were visibly orange and the mature seed contained up to a 50-fold increase in carotenoids. The predominant carotenoids accumulating in the seeds of the transgenic plants were alpha and beta-carotene. Other precursors such as phytoene were also detected. Lutein, the predominant carotenoid in control seeds, was not substantially increased in the transgenics. The total amount of carotenoids in these seeds is now equivalent to or greater than those seen in the mesocarp of oil palm. Other metabolites in the isoprenoid pathway were examined in these seeds. Sterol levels remained essentially the same, while tocopherol levels decreased significantly as compared to non-transgenic controls. Chlorophyll levels were also reduced in developing transgenic seed. Additionally, the fatty acyl composition was altered with the transgenic seeds having a relatively higher percentage of the 18 : 1 (oleic acid) component and a decreased percentage of the 18 : 2 (linoleic acid) and 18 : 3 (linolenic acid) components. This dramatic increase in flux through the carotenoid pathway and the other metabolic effects are discussed.