Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
AgriGenomics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Revealing the Gene Network for Producing the Toxin in Green Potatoes may Help Improve Crops

Published: Monday, August 05, 2013
Last Updated: Monday, August 05, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Although rarely fatal in humans, eating green potatoes can often cause illness in farm animals.

In 1924, Science magazine reported on a fatal case of potato poisoning: James B. Matheney of Vandalia, Illinois, had gathered about one and a half bushels of tubers, which had turned green due to sunlight exposure.

Two days after eating the potatoes, most of his family – wife, two daughters and four sons – showed symptoms of poisoning; the only exceptions were James himself, who didn’t eat the potatoes, and a breast-fed baby boy. His wife, aged 45, died a week later, followed by their 16-year-old daughter. The other five members of the family recovered.

Although such fatalities are rare among human beings, farm animals often get sick or die after eating green potatoes. Symptoms include damage to the digestive system as well as loss of sensation, hallucinations and other neurological disturbances. Death can be caused by a disruption of the heart beat. The culprits are the toxic substances solanine and chaconine; their concentration rises sharply with exposure to light or during sprouting, and they protect the tubers from insects and disease.

Solanine and chaconine belong to the large family of glycoalkaloids, which includes thousands of toxins found in small amounts in other edible plants, including tomatoes and eggplant. These substances have been known for over 200 years, but only recently has Prof. Asaph Aharoni of the Plant Sciences Department begun to unravel how they are produced in plants. He and his team have mapped out the biochemical pathway responsible for manufacturing glycoalkaloids from cholesterol. Their findings will facilitate the breeding of toxin-free crops and the development of new crop varieties from wild strains that contain such large amounts of glycoalkaloids, they are currently considered inedible. On the other hand, causing plants to produce glycoalkaloids if they don’t do so naturally or increasing their glycoalkaloid content can help protect them against disease.

Two years ago, in research reported in The Plant Cell, the scientists identified the first gene in the chain of reactions that leads to the production of glycoalkaloids. In a new study published recently in Science, they have now managed to identify nine other genes in the chain by using the original gene as a marker and comparing gene expression patterns in different parts of tomatoes and potatoes. Disrupting the activity of one of these genes, they found, prevented the accumulation of glycoalkaloids in potato tubers and tomatoes. The team then revealed the function of each of the genes and outlined the entire pathway, consisting of ten stages, in which cholesterol molecules turn into glycoalkaloids.

An analysis of the findings produced an intriguing insight: Most of the genes involved are grouped on chromosome 7 of the potato and tomato genome. Such grouping apparently prevents the plants from passing on to their offspring an incomplete glycoalkaloid pathway, which can result in the manufacture of chemicals harmful to the plants.

The research was conducted by postdoctoral fellow Dr. Maxim Itkin, who worked with Dr. Uwe Heinig, Dr. Oren Tzfadia, Pablo D. Cardenas, Dr. Samuel Bocobza, Dr. Sergey Malitsky and Dr. Ilana Rogachev of Prof. Aharoni’s lab; as well as Dr. Tamar Unger of the Israel Structural Proteomics Center at the Weizmann Institute, and scientists from the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, India, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Wageningen University, the Netherlands.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,900+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 5,300+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Wild Strawberry Genome Sequenced
Scientists have sequenced the full genome of a wild strawberry plant.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Scientific News
Biologists Discover Origin of Stomata
Researchers discover genetic mechanism similar in flowering plants and mosses is a result of evolutionary conservation.
Engineering Bacteria to Aid Ethanol
Splicing in genes for ethanol production into bacteria in order to produce ethanol rather than not lactic acid.
Uncovering a World of Viruses
Study that shows human diseases like influenza are derived from those present in invertebrates.
Controlling Cell Division in Plants
Researchers succeeded in developing a new compound, a triarylmethane, that can rapidly inhibit cell division in plants.
Plant Aging Study Produces Insights into Crop Yields
New insights into the mechanism behind how plants age may help scientists better understand crop yields and nutrient allocation.
Protein-Folding Gene Helps Heal Wounds
Researchers identified a protein that dramatically accelerates wound healing in animal models.
USDA Uses Quorum Tech to Study Soft Bodied Organisms
Quorum Technologies report on US Department of Agriculture using their PP2000 Cryo-SEM preparation system to prepare soft bodied organisms for study.
Nitrogen Fixing Symbiosis Crucial for Microbiome Assembly
New findings from the study of legumes have identified an unknown role of nitrogen fixation symbiosis on plant root-associated microbiome.
Crop Yield Gets Boost with Modified Genes
Researchers increase plant proteins that result in more efficient use of sunlight.
Peer Review is in Crisis, But Should be Fixed, Not Abolished
After the time to get the science done, peer review has become the slowest step in the process of sharing studies, and some scientists have had enough.
SELECTBIO

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,900+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,300+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!