The Arabidopsis ORANGE (AtOR) gene promotes carotenoid accumulation in transgenic corn hybrids derived from parental lines with limited carotenoid pools
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The AtOR gene enhances carotenoid levels in corn by promoting the formation of plastoglobuli when the carotenoid pool is limited, but has no further effect when carotenoids are already abundant.
The cauliflower orange (or) gene mutation influences carotenoid accumulation in plants by promoting the transition of proplastids into chromoplasts, thus creating intracellular storage compartments that act as metabolic sink. We overexpressed the Arabidopsis OR gene under the control of the endosperm-specific wheat LMW glutenin promoter in a white corn variety that normally accumulates only trace amounts of carotenoids. The total endosperm carotenoid content in the best-performing AtOR transgenic corn line was 32-fold higher than wild-type controls (~25 µg/g DW at 30 days after pollination) but the principal carotenoids remained the same, suggesting that AtOR increases the abundance of existing carotenoids without changing the metabolic composition. We analyzed the expression of endogenous genes representing the carotenoid biosynthesis and MEP pathways, as well as the plastid fusion/translocation factor required for chromoplast formation, but only the DXS1 gene was upregulated in the transgenic corn plants. The line expressing AtOR at the highest level was crossed with four transgenic corn lines expressing different carotenogenic genes and accumulating different carotenoids. The introgression of AtOR increased the carotenoid content of the hybrids when there was a limited carotenoid pool in the parental line, but had no effect when carotenoids were already abundant in the parent. The AtOR gene therefore appears to enhance carotenoid levels by promoting the formation of carotenoid-sequestering plastoglobuli when the carotenoid pool is limited, but has no further effect when carotenoids are already abundant because high levels of carotenoids can induce the formation of carotenoid-sequestering plastoglobuli even in the absence of AtOR.
KeywordsOrange gene Carotenoids Plastoglobuli Corn Transgenic Hybrids
Research at the Universitat de Lleida is supported by MINECO, Spain (BIO2014-54426-P; BIO2014-54441-P), by the Catalan Government (2014 SGR 1296 Agricultural Biotechnology Research Group), and by European Union Framework 7, European Research Council IDEAS Advanced Grant BIOFORCE and POC Grant (to PC). G. Farré is supported by a J de la C fellowship.
CZ, GS, TC, and PC designed research; JB, UZ, and GF performed research, analyzed data, and wrote the article; VM did TEM and analyzed these data.
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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