Bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) is cultivated on more land than any other crop and produces a fifth of the calories consumed by humans. Wheat endosperm is rich in starch yet contains low concentrations of dietary iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn). Biofortification is a micronutrient intervention aimed at increasing the density and bioavailability of essential vitamins and minerals in staple crops; Fe biofortification of wheat has proved challenging. In this study we employed constitutive expression (CE) of the rice (Oryza sativa L.) nicotianamine synthase 2 (OsNAS2) gene in bread wheat to up-regulate biosynthesis of two low molecular weight metal chelators - nicotianamine (NA) and 2'-deoxymugineic acid (DMA) - that play key roles in metal transport and nutrition. The CE-OsNAS2 plants accumulated higher concentrations of grain Fe, Zn, NA and DMA and synchrotron X-ray fluorescence microscopy (XFM) revealed enhanced localization of Fe and Zn in endosperm and crease tissues, respectively. Iron bioavailability was increased in white flour milled from field-grown CE-OsNAS2 grain and positively correlated with NA and DMA concentrations.
Beasley, J. T., Bonneau, J. P., Sánchez-Palacios, J. T., Moreno-Moyano, L. T., Callahan, D. L., Tako, E., ... Johnson, A. A. T. (2019). Metabolic engineering of bread wheat improves grain iron concentration and bioavailability. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 17(8), 1514-1526. https://doi.org/10.1111/pbi.13074