Mutation in the seed storage protein kafirin creates a high-value food trait in sorghum

Nat Commun. 2013;4:2217. doi: 10.1038/ncomms3217.


Sustainable food production for the earth's fast-growing population is a major challenge for breeding new high-yielding crops, but enhancing the nutritional quality of staple crops can potentially offset limitations associated with yield increases. Sorghum has immense value as a staple food item for humans in Africa, but it is poorly digested. Although a mutant exhibiting high-protein digestibility and lysine content has market potential, the molecular nature of the mutation is previously unknown. Here, building on knowledge from maize mutants, we take a direct approach and find that the high-digestible sorghum phenotype is tightly linked to a single-point mutation, rendering the signal peptide of a seed storage protein kafirin resistant to processing, indirectly reducing lysine-poor kafirins and thereby increasing lysine-rich proteins in the seeds. These findings indicate that a molecular marker can be used to accelerate introduction of this high nutrition and digestibility trait into different sorghum varieties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Base Sequence
  • Chromosomes, Plant / genetics
  • Conserved Sequence / genetics
  • Endosperm / ultrastructure
  • Food*
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Genetic Markers
  • Lysine / genetics
  • Microsatellite Repeats / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutant Proteins / chemistry
  • Mutant Proteins / genetics
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Mutation, Missense / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*
  • Prolamins / chemistry
  • Protein Sorting Signals
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable*
  • Seed Storage Proteins / genetics*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sorghum / genetics*
  • Sorghum / ultrastructure
  • Zea mays / ultrastructure


  • Genetic Markers
  • Mutant Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • Prolamins
  • Protein Sorting Signals
  • Seed Storage Proteins
  • kafirin protein, Sorghum bicolor
  • Lysine

Associated data

  • GENBANK/KF141792