Modern breeding could make apples red inside and out

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Want to try a furry apple with red flesh? Kiwi scientists say modern plant breeding techniques that mimic changes to DNA made in nature – such as CRISPR-Cas9 — will allow us to easily change how fruit and veg look, feel, taste and nourish us. Most of the nutrients in apples and potatoes, for example, are concentrated in the skin. But by altering a family of genes to produce higher quantities of nutrients that are usually only found in the skin, the authors say they can create fruits and vegetables that have the same concentration of vitamins in every bite.

Journal/conference: Trends in Plant Science

DOI: 10.1016/j.tplants.2018.06.001

Organisation/s: Plant and Food Research, University of Auckland

Funder: The authors receive support from the New Zealand Government, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Endeavour Funds, 'Turbo Breeding' and 'Filling the Void.'

Media Release

From: Plant and Food Research

MYBs generate ‘wow factors’ in fruits and vegetables

Novelty and health benefits play a major role in influencing consumers’ purchasing decisions and are often controlled in the plant by a family of proteins called MYBs. Understanding how these work could result in new fruits and vegetables on the supermarket shelves.

Studies have found that changing, or selecting for changes, in the activity of a single family of genetic controls, called MYB transcription factors, enhances key traits of fruits and vegetables such as appearance, flavour, texture and nutritional content. For example, in many fruiting plants these controls maintain colour compounds, which have been associated with health benefits for humans, in the skin of the fruit and low concentrations in the large volume of flesh. By changing or selecting for changes in the activity of these transcription factors, the plant could produce more of these healthy compounds throughout the fruit.

In a cover story titled “MYBs drive novel consumer traits in fruits in vegetables” published in the August 2018 issue of academic journal Trends in Plant Science, Plant & Food Research scientists Professor Andrew Allan and Dr Richard Espley review plant MYB transcription factors that are associated with the development, hormone signalling, metabolite biosynthesis and pigmentation of plants.

“Studies have shown that pigments such as anthocyanins and carotenoids are thought to offer health and dietary benefits. Changes in key MYB transcription factors could turn the colourless flesh of certain fruits into one with colour,” Professor Allan says. “It could significantly increase the content of pigments per fruit serving, resulting in a possible step change in health benefits.”

Besides colour, MYBs are also involved in taste and flavour via aroma, astringency and piquancy, as well as affecting the texture of the flesh and hair formation on the skin.

Understanding the regulation of MYB transcription factors facilitates the breeding and production of completely new categories of fruits and vegetables with desirable consumer traits. These added potential health benefits, more attractive appearance, better flavour, better texture, better storage and more convenience will encourage the purchase and consumption of plant products rather than heavily-processed synthetic food, for people looking for a longer, healthier life whilst benefiting the environment.

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