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Open AccessArticle

The Silencing of Carotenoid β-Hydroxylases by RNA Interference in Different Maize Genetic Backgrounds Increases the β-Carotene Content of the Endosperm

Department of Plant Production and Forestry Science, University of Lleida-Agrotecnio Center, Av. Alcalde Rovira Roure, 191, 25198 Lleida, Spain
Biosynthesis Group, Molecular Biosciences, Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität, 60054 Frankfurt, Germany
ICREA, Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies, Passeig Lluís Companys 23, 08010 Barcelona, Spain
School of Life Sciences, Changchun Normal University, Changchun 130032, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2017, 18(12), 2515;
Received: 28 October 2017 / Revised: 15 November 2017 / Accepted: 16 November 2017 / Published: 24 November 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular Transformations of Natural Products)
Maize (Zea mays L.) is a staple food in many parts of Africa, but the endosperm generally contains low levels of the pro-vitamin A carotenoid β-carotene, leading to vitamin A deficiency disease in populations relying on cereal-based diets. However, maize endosperm does accumulate high levels of other carotenoids, including zeaxanthin, which is derived from β-carotene via two hydroxylation reactions. Blocking these reactions could therefore improve the endosperm β-carotene content. Accordingly, we used RNA interference (RNAi) to silence the endogenous ZmBCH1 and ZmBCH2 genes, which encode two non-heme di-iron carotenoid β-hydroxylases. The genes were silenced in a range of maize genetic backgrounds by introgressing the RNAi cassette, allowing us to determine the impact of ZmBCH1/ZmBCH2 silencing in diverse hybrids. The β-carotene content of the endosperm increased substantially in all hybrids in which ZmBCH2 was silenced, regardless of whether or not ZmBCH1 was silenced simultaneously. However, the β-carotene content did not change significantly in C17 hybrids (M7 × C17 and M13 × C17) compared to C17 alone, because ZmBCH2 is already expressed at negligible levels in the C17 parent. Our data indicate that ZmBCH2 is primarily responsible for the conversion of β-carotene to zeaxanthin in maize endosperm. View Full-Text
Keywords: maize (Zea mays L.); β-carotene; carotenoid β-hydroxylase; RNAi; hybrid maize (Zea mays L.); β-carotene; carotenoid β-hydroxylase; RNAi; hybrid
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Berman, J.; Zorrilla-López, U.; Sandmann, G.; Capell, T.; Christou, P.; Zhu, C. The Silencing of Carotenoid β-Hydroxylases by RNA Interference in Different Maize Genetic Backgrounds Increases the β-Carotene Content of the Endosperm. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2017, 18, 2515.

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