Phytate: impact on environment and human nutrition. A challenge for molecular breeding

J Zhejiang Univ Sci B. 2008 Mar;9(3):165-91. doi: 10.1631/jzus.B0710640.


Phytic acid (PA) is the primary storage compound of phosphorus in seeds accounting for up to 80% of the total seed phosphorus and contributing as much as 1.5% to the seed dry weight. The negatively charged phosphate in PA strongly binds to metallic cations of Ca, Fe, K, Mg, Mn and Zn making them insoluble and thus unavailable as nutritional factors. Phytate mainly accumulates in protein storage vacuoles as globoids, predominantly located in the aleurone layer (wheat, barley and rice) or in the embryo (maize). During germination, phytate is hydrolysed by endogenous phytase(s) and other phosphatases to release phosphate, inositol and micronutrients to support the emerging seedling. PA and its derivatives are also implicated in RNA export, DNA repair, signalling, endocytosis and cell vesicular trafficking. Our recent studies on purification of phytate globoids, their mineral composition and dephytinization by wheat phytase will be discussed. Biochemical data for purified and characterized phytases isolated from more than 23 plant species are presented, the dephosphorylation pathways of phytic acid by different classes of phytases are compared, and the application of phytase in food and feed is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 6-Phytase / chemistry
  • 6-Phytase / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Diet*
  • Environment*
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Phytic Acid / chemistry
  • Phytic Acid / metabolism*
  • Phytic Acid / pharmacology*


  • Phytic Acid
  • Iron
  • 6-Phytase