Diverse role of phytic acid in plants and approaches to develop low-phytate grains to enhance bioavailability of micronutrients

Adv Genet. 2021:107:89-120. doi: 10.1016/bs.adgen.2020.11.003. Epub 2020 Dec 17.


Natural or synthetic compounds that interfere with the bioavailability of nutrients are called antinutrients. Phytic acid (PA) is one of the major antinutrients present in the grains and acts as a chelator of micronutrients. The presence of six reactive phosphate groups in PA hinders the absorption of micronutrients in the gut of non-ruminants. Consumption of PA-rich diet leads to deficiency of minerals such as iron and zinc among human population. On the contrary, PA is a natural antioxidant, and PA-derived molecules function in various signal transduction pathways. Therefore, optimal concentration of PA needs to be maintained in plants to avoid adverse pleiotropic effects, as well as to ensure micronutrient bioavailability in the diets. Given this, the chapter enumerates the structure, biosynthesis, and accumulation of PA in food grains followed by their roles in growth, development, and stress responses. Further, the chapter elaborates on the antinutritional properties of PA and explains the conventional breeding and transgene-based approaches deployed to develop low-PA varieties. Studies have shown that conventional breeding methods could develop low-PA lines; however, the pleiotropic effects of these methods viz. reduced yield, embryo abnormalities, and poor seed quality hinder the use of breeding strategies. Overexpression of phytase in the endosperm and RNAi-mediated silencing of genes involved in myo-inositol biosynthesis overcome these constraints. Next-generation genome editing approaches, including CRISPR-Cas9 enable the manipulation of more than one gene involved in PA biosynthesis pathway through multiplex editing, and scope exists to deploy such tools in developing varieties with optimal PA levels.

Keywords: Antinutrient; Breeding; Myoinositol; Phytic acid; Transgenics; lpa mutant.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biological Availability
  • Crops, Agricultural / chemistry*
  • Crops, Agricultural / metabolism
  • Crops, Agricultural / physiology
  • Humans
  • Micronutrients / pharmacokinetics*
  • Phytic Acid / chemistry
  • Phytic Acid / metabolism*
  • Plant Breeding / methods*
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Seeds / growth & development
  • Seeds / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology


  • Micronutrients
  • Phytic Acid