Researchers at the University of Hong Kong and the Institut de Biologie Moléculaire des Plantes have discovered how to genetically modify tomatoes to enhance their antioxidant properties. The scientists used a variant of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A synthase (HMGS) to manipulate the isopropenoid pathway of the tomato plant. The increase of HMGS in the tomato plant cause an increased production of many compounds, including phytosterols, squalene, provitamin A, lycopene, and vitamin E. The vitamin E production in the tomatoes increased by an incredible 494 percent.
The research group then furthered their experiment by using the HMGS variant S359A, which differed from the original HMGS because the amino acid serine was replaced by the amino acid alanine in the 359 position. Switching the HMGS to the S359A variant increased the enzyme activity within the tomatoes by 10-fold. The introduction of the S359A variant of HMGS did not alter the size or overall appearance of the tomatoes. However, the tomatoes had an antioxidant level that was 89.5-96.5 percent higher than the unaltered tomatoes. The tomatoes that were genetically modified with the S359A variant of HMGS also had higher levels of vitamin E, squalene, and phytosterols because of the increased expression of genes in the isoprenoid pathway.
I thought that this article was very interesting because I never realized how much the properties of an organism can change due to genetic manipulation. The tomatoes in this study experienced an increase of four different substances within them, all because one amino acid in the DNA sequence was changed. The researches who completed this study hope to begin providing the public with vegetables that have added-value in them. They also hope to enrich the feed given to livestock and fish in aquaculture farms. In addition, phystolerols, vitamin E, and carotenoids function as inflammatories and can be utilized in the production of anti-aging lotion and sunscreen. Overall, I think that this research could have many positive effects that, eventually, span the globe.
Link to Article: Tomatoes with enhanced antioxidant properties created with genetic engineering
More information about genetic engineering can be found here