U.K.: GM tomato efficiently produces disease-fighting compounds

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U.K.: GM tomato efficiently produces disease-fighting compounds

Disease-fighting medicinal compounds have been discovered during a study using genetically modified (GM) tomatoes carried out at a U.K. research center. tomates_69588757 small

Scientists at the John Innes Centre discovered a way to produce large quantities of potentially useful natural compounds, phenylpropanoids, by growing them in tomatoes.

The compounds include Resveratrol, which is found in grapes has extended lifespan in animal studies, and Genistein, the compound found in soybean which has been suggested to play a role in the prevention of steroid-hormone related cancers, especially breast cancer.

Dr. Yang Zhang and Dr. Eugenio Butelli have been leading research in Professor Cathie Martin’'s laboratory at the Centre.

They have discovered one tomato can produce the same quantity of Resveratrol found in 50 bottles of red wine. One tomato has also produced the same amount of Genistein as found in 2.5 kilograms of tofu.

The scientists have been studying the effect of the protein AtMYB12, commonly found in Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant found in many gardens in Britain and used as a model in scientific investigation.

AtMYB12 activates a broad set of genes involved in metabolic pathways responsible for producing natural compounds of use to the plant, acting like a tap to increase or reduce the production of natural compounds depending on how much of the protein is present.

Introducing both AtMYB12 and genes from plants encoding enzymes specific for making Resveratrol in grape and Genistein in legumes, resulted in tomatoes that could produce 80mg of novel compound per gram of dry weight.

According to the scientists, this means industrial up-scaling is a possibility.

They said as 500 metric tons (MT) of tomatoes were produced per hectare in countries delivering the highest yields, production of valuable compounds like Resveratrol or Genistein in tomatoes could be more economical than relying on artificial synthesis in a laboratory or extracting tiny quantities from grapes and soybeans.

In the study, recently published in scientific journal Nature Communications, the researchers suggested the tomatoes could potentially become the source of increased nutritional or medicinal benefit.

"“Medicinal plants with high value are often difficult to grow and manage, and need very long cultivation times to produce the desired compounds",” says Dr. Zhang in a release.

"“Our research provides a fantastic platform to quickly produce these valuable medicinal compounds in tomatoes.

“"Target compounds could be purified directly from tomato juice. We believe our design idea could also be applied to other compounds such as terpenoids and alkaloids, which are the major groups of medicinal compounds from plants.”"

Photo: www.shutterstock.com


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