Metabolic engineering of folate and its precursors in Mexican common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.)
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© 2016 The Authors. Plant Biotechnology Journal published by Society for Experimental Biology and The Association of Applied Biologists and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.Folate (vitamin B9) deficiency causes several health problems globally. However, folate biofortification of major staple crops is one alternative that can be used to improve vitamin intakes in populations at risk. We increased the folate levels in common bean by engineering the pteridine branch required for their biosynthesis. GTP cyclohydrolase I from Arabidopsis (AtGchI) was stably introduced into three common bean Pinto cultivars by particle bombardment. Seed-specific overexpression of AtGCHI caused significant increases of up to 150-fold in biosynthetic pteridines in the transformed lines. The pteridine boost enhanced folate levels in raw desiccated seeds by up to threefold (325 ¿g in a 100 g portion), which would represent 81% of the adult recommended daily allowance. Unexpectedly, the engineering also triggered a general increase in PABA levels, the other folate precursor. This was not observed in previous engineering studies and was probably caused by a feedforward mechanism that remains to be elucidated. Results from this work also show that common bean grains accumulate considerable amounts of oxidized pteridines that might represent products of folate degradation in desiccating seeds. Our study uncovers a probable different regulation of folate homoeostasis in these legume grains than that observed in other engineering works. Legumes are good sources of folates, and this work shows that they can be engineered to accumulate even greater amounts of folate that, when consumed, can improve folate status. Biofortification of common bean with folates and other micronutrients represents a promising strategy to improve the nutritional status of populations around the world.