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Transgenic Plants with Tocopherol Methyltransferase (Vitamin E)

Description:
Vitamin E is an essential component of mammalian diets.  Epidemiological evidence indicates that Vitamin E supplementation results in decreased risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer, aids in immune function, and generally prevents or slows a number of degenerative disease processes in humans.  Vitamin E, or a-tocopherol, belongs to a class of lipid-soluble antioxidants and are obtained exclusively from plants.  In general, most of the major staple food crops (e.g., rice, corn, wheat, potato) produce low to extremely low levels of total tocopherols, of which only a small percentage is a-tocopherol.

One alternative to relying on diet is to take a vitamin E supplement.  However, most vitamin E supplements contain synthetic vitamin E comprising six stereoismers, whereas natural vitamin E is a single isomer.  Furthermore, supplements tend to be relatively expensive, and the general population is disinclined to take vitamin E supplements on a regular basis.

Solution
UNR researchers have developed a method of altering the tocopherol levels in plants.  The present invention is based on isolated DNA fragments, which include coding sequences for gamma-tocopherol methyltransferase and two other enzymes on the Vitamin E biosynthetic pathway.   Therefore, the present method involves transgenic  plants which have altered alpha-tocopherol to gamma-tocopherol ratios, thus increasing the nutritive value of plants and plant products for human and animal consumption.

UNR researchers have also developed a method of altering the tocopherol profile of a plant.  The present invention is based on an isolated DNA fragment in a transgenic plant which can alter the delta-tocopherol to  gamma-tocopherol and  alpha-tocopherol to beta-tocopherol ratios, thus increasing the nutritive value of plants and plant products.

Applications
Production of natural Vitamin E and altering the tocopherol composition in plants and plant products.
 
IP Status
UNR ID#: UNR99-001
Transgenic Plants with Tocopherol Methyltransferase
US Patent No.: 6,642,434
  
Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Dan Langford
Technology Commercialization, Manager
University of Nevada, Reno and Desert Research Institute
dlangford@unr.edu
Inventors:
Dean DellaPenna
David Shintani
Keywords:
Agriculture
Biotech