Abstract

Breeding to increase β-carotene levels in cereal grains, termed provitamin A biofortification, is an economical approach to address dietary vitamin A deficiency in the developing world. Experimental evidence from association and linkage populations in maize (Zea mays L.) demonstrate that the gene encoding β-carotene hydroxylase 1 (crtRB1) underlies a principal quantitative trait locus associated with β-carotene concentration and conversion in maize kernels. crtRB1 alleles associated with reduced transcript expression correlate with higher β-carotene concentrations. Genetic variation at crtRB1 also affects hydroxylation efficiency among encoded allozymes, as observed by resultant carotenoid profiles in recombinant expression assays. The most favorable crtRB1 alleles, rare in frequency and unique to temperate germplasm, are being introgressed via inexpensive PCR marker-assisted selection into tropical maize germplasm adapted to developing countries, where it is most needed for human health.

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Acknowledgements

We thank K. Pixley and J. Chandler for seed and field experiment coordination and W. White, P. Bermudez, S. Islam, C. Paul, W. Liu, S. Xu and Y. Zhou for carotenoid HPLC profiling. Helpful comments on the manuscript from J. Wilkinson and J. Yu are appreciated. This research was supported by the US Agency for International Development (T.R.), HarvestPlus (T.R., D.D.P., J.Y., J.L., M.L.W.), National Science Foundation (NSF) DBI-0321467, DBI-0820619 (E.S.B.), NSF DBI-0604923 (T.R.), USDA-ARS (E.S.B.), NSF DBI-0501713 (T.B.), TRIAD Foundation (T.B.), China NSF-30821140352 (J.L., J.Y.), China Scholarship Fund (Y.F.) and JBT Fellowship-UIUC (C.B.K.).

Author information

Author notes

    • Jianbing Yan
    •  & Catherine Bermudez Kandianis

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Texcoco, Mexico.

    • Jianbing Yan
    • , Maria Zaharieva
    • , Raman Babu
    • , Natalia Palacios
    •  & Marilyn L Warburton
  2. National Maize Improvement Center of China, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China.

    • Jianbing Yan
    • , Xiaohong Yang
    • , Zhiyuan Fu
    • , Qing Li
    • , Yang Fu
    •  & Jiansheng Li
  3. Institute for Genomic Diversity, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA.

    • Jianbing Yan
    • , Carlos E Harjes
    • , Sharon Mitchell
    • , Maria G Salas Fernandez
    •  & Edward S Buckler
  4. Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, USA.

    • Catherine Bermudez Kandianis
    • , Debra J Skinner
    • , Yang Fu
    •  & Torbert Rocheford
  5. Department of Agronomy, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA.

    • Catherine Bermudez Kandianis
    • , Debra J Skinner
    • , Yang Fu
    •  & Torbert Rocheford
  6. Boyce Thompson Institute, Ithaca, New York, USA.

    • Ling Bai
    •  & Thomas Brutnell
  7. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA.

    • Eun-Ha Kim
    •  & Dean DellaPenna
  8. Agronomy Department, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA.

    • Maria G Salas Fernandez
  9. United States Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service: Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research Unit, Ithaca, New York, USA.

    • Edward S Buckler
  10. Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA.

    • Edward S Buckler
  11. United States Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service: Corn Host Plant Resistance Research Unit, Starkville, Mississippi, USA.

    • Marilyn L Warburton
  12. Monsanto, Leesburg, Georgia, USA.

    • Carlos E Harjes

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Contributions

C.E.H. and J.Y. identified the gene. X.Y., Z.F., Y.F., R.B., C.B.K., J.Y., M.G.S.F., M.Z. and S.M. carried out the sequencing and genotyping. L.B., E.-H.K. and X.Y. carried out the transcript expression and biochemical assays. J.Y. and D.J.S. developed the crtRB1 molecular markers. R.B. and J.Y. supervised the field testing. C.B.K., Z.F., Q.L. and N.P. carried out the carotenoid profiling. C.B.K. and X.Y. completed the genetic mapping and QTL analyses. J.Y. and C.B.K. carried out the association and genetic analyses. The study was designed and supervised by J.Y., J.L., D.D.P., T.B., E.S.B., M.L.W. and T.R. The manuscript was prepared by J.Y., C.B.K., D.J.S., M.L.W. and T.R. and was edited by D.D.P., T.B. and E.S.B.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Marilyn L Warburton or Torbert Rocheford.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/ng.551

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