Addressing nutritional deficiencies in food crops through biofortification is a sustainable approach to tackling malnutrition. Biofortification is continuously being attempted through conventional breeding as well as through various plant biotechnological interventions, ranging from molecular breeding to genetic engineering and genome editing for enriching crops with various health-promoting metabolites. Genetic engineering is used for the rational incorporation of desired nutritional traits in food crops and predominantly operates through nuclear and chloroplast genome engineering. In the recent past, chloroplast engineering has been deployed as a strategic tool to develop model plants with enhanced nutritional traits due to the various advantages it offers over nuclear genome engineering. However, this approach needs to be extended for the nutritional enhancement of major food crops. Further, this platform could be combined with strategies, such as synthetic biology, chloroplast editing, nanoparticle-mediated rapid chloroplast transformation, and horizontal gene transfer through grafting for targeting endogenous metabolic pathways for overproducing native nutraceuticals, production of biopharmaceuticals, and biosynthesis of designer nutritional compounds. This review focuses on exploring various features of chloroplast genome engineering for nutritional enhancement of food crops by enhancing the levels of existing metabolites, restoring the metabolites lost during crop domestication, and introducing novel metabolites and phytonutrients needed for a healthy daily diet.
Keywords: Chloroplast transformation; chloroplast editing; horizontal genome transfer; metabolic engineering; nutrition; synthetic biology.