Vegetables represent a major source of phenolic acids, powerful antioxidants characterized by an organic carboxylic acid function and which present multiple properties beneficial for human health. In consequence, developing new varieties with enhanced content in phenolic acids is an increasingly important breeding objective. Major phenolic acids present in vegetables are derivatives of cinnamic acid and to a lesser extent of benzoic acid. A large diversity in phenolic acids content has been found among cultivars and wild relatives of many vegetable crops. Identification of sources of variation for phenolic acids content can be accomplished by screening germplasm collections, but also through morphological characteristics and origin, as well as by evaluating mutations in key genes. Gene action estimates together with relatively high values for heritability indicate that selection for enhanced phenolic acids content will be efficient. Modern genomics and biotechnological strategies, such as QTL detection, candidate genes approaches and genetic transformation, are powerful tools for identification of genomic regions and genes with a key role in accumulation of phenolic acids in vegetables. However, genetically increasing the content in phenolic acids may also affect other traits important for the success of a variety. We anticipate that the combination of conventional and modern strategies will facilitate the development of a new generation of vegetable varieties with enhanced content in phenolic acids.
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