Enrichment of carotenoids in flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) by metabolic engineering with introduction of bacterial phytoene synthase gene crtB

Masaki Fujisawa, Mio Watanabe, Song-Kang Choi, Maki Teramoto, Kanji Ohyama, Norihiko Misawa
Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering 2008, 105 (6): 636-41
Linseed flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) is an industrially important oil crop, which includes large amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (18:3) and lignan in its seed oil. We report here the metabolic engineering of flax plants to increase carotenoid amount in seeds. Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of flax was performed to express the phytoene synthase gene (crtB) derived from the soil bacterium Pantoea ananatis (formerly called Erwinia uredovora 20D3) under the control of the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S constitutive promoter or the Arabidopsis thaliana fatty acid elongase 1 gene (FAE1) seed-specific promoter. As a result, eight transgenic flax plants were generated. They formed orange seeds (embryos), in which phytoene, alpha-carotene, and beta-carotene were newly accumulated in addition to increased amounts of lutein, while untransformed flax plants formed light-yellow seeds, in which only lutein was detected. Interestingly, despite the control of the CaMV 35S promoter, the expression of crtB was not observed in the leaves but in the seeds in the transgenic flax plants. Total carotenoid amounts in these seeds were 65.4-156.3 microg/g fresh weight, which corresponded to 7.8- to 18.6-fold increase, compared with those of untransformed controls. These results suggest that the flux of phytoene synthesis from geranylgeranyl diphosphate was first promoted by the expressed crtB gene product (CrtB), and then phytoene was consecutively decomposed to the downstream metabolites alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lutein, as catalyzed by endogenous carotenoid biosynthetic enzymes in seeds. The transgenic flaxseeds enriched with the carotenoids could be valuable as nutritional sources for human health.

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