Transgenic multivitamin corn through biofortification of endosperm with three vitamins representing three distinct metabolic pathways

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 May 12;106(19):7762-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0901412106. Epub 2009 Apr 27.


Vitamin deficiency affects up to 50% of the world's population, disproportionately impacting on developing countries where populations endure monotonous, cereal-rich diets. Transgenic plants offer an effective way to increase the vitamin content of staple crops, but thus far it has only been possible to enhance individual vitamins. We created elite inbred South African transgenic corn plants in which the levels of 3 vitamins were increased specifically in the endosperm through the simultaneous modification of 3 separate metabolic pathways. The transgenic kernels contained 169-fold the normal amount of beta-carotene, 6-fold the normal amount of ascorbate, and double the normal amount of folate. Levels of engineered vitamins remained stable at least through to the T3 homozygous generation. This achievement, which vastly exceeds any realized thus far by conventional breeding alone, opens the way for the development of nutritionally complete cereals to benefit the world's poorest people.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ascorbic Acid / metabolism
  • Folic Acid / metabolism
  • Food, Fortified*
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Genetic Engineering / methods
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Homozygote
  • Models, Genetic
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Transgenes*
  • Vitamin A / metabolism
  • Vitamins
  • Zea mays / genetics*
  • beta Carotene / metabolism


  • Vitamins
  • beta Carotene
  • Vitamin A
  • Folic Acid
  • Ascorbic Acid