Metabolic engineering of carotenoid accumulation by creating a metabolic sink
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Carotenoids are highly beneficial for human nutrition and health because they provide essential nutrients and important antioxidants in our diets. However, many food crops, especially the major staple crops contain only trace to low amounts of carotenoids. Although significant progress has been made in developing food crops rich in carotenoids by altering the expression of carotenoid biosynthetic genes, in many cases it has proved to be difficult to reach the desired levels of carotenoid enrichment. The recent identification and characterization of a novel gene mutation in cauliflower reveals that creating a metabolic sink to sequester carotenoids is an important mechanism to control carotenoid accumulation in plants. The successful demonstration of increased carotenoid accumulation in association with the formation of sink structures in transgenic crops offers a new and alternative approach to increase carotenoid content. Manipulation of the formation of metabolic sink along with the catalytic activity of the pathway may represent a promising strategy for maximally improving the nutritional quality of food crops.