Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
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 2,900+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,200+ 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

Tiny 'Flasks' Speed Up Chemical Reactions
Self-assembling nanosphere clusters may improve everything from drug synthesis to drug delivery.
Monday, January 11, 2016
Wild Strawberry Genome Sequenced
Scientists have sequenced the full genome of a wild strawberry plant.
Monday, January 10, 2011
A Gene for Metastasis
Weizmann Institute Scientists reveal the actions of a key player in colorectal cancer.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Scientific News
Head Injury Patients have Protein Clumps Associated with Alzheimer’s Disease
Scientists have revealed that protein clumps associated with Alzheimer's disease are also found in the brains of people who have had a head injury.
Exposure to Air Pollution 30 Years Ago Associated with Increased Risk of Death
Exposure to air pollution more than 30 years ago may still affect an individual's mortality risk today, according to new research from Imperial College London.
More Then 1 in 20 U.S. Children have Dizziness and Balance Problems
Researchers at NIH have found that girls have a higher prevalence of dizziness and balance problems compared to boys, 5.7 percent and 5.0 percent.
Biosensors on Demand
New strategy results in custom "designer proteins" for sensing a variety of molecules.
Low-Cost, Portable NQR Spectroscopy
A researcher at Case Western Reserve University is developing a low-cost, portable prototype designed to detect tainted medicines and food supplements that otherwise can make their way to consumers. The technology can authenticate good medicines and supplements.
Structure of Brain Plaques in Huntington's
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have shown that the core of the protein clumps found in the brains of people with Huntington's disease have a distinctive structure, a finding that could shed light on the molecular mechanisms underlying the neurodegenerative disorder.
Insights into the Function of the Main Class of Drug Targets
About thirty percent of all medical drugs such as beta-blockers or antidepressants interact with certain types of cell surface proteins called G protein coupled receptors.
Spero Therapeutics Announces $30 Million Series B Preferred Financing
Company has announced financing of $30 million to support development of novel therapies to treat gram-negative bacterial infections.
Unique Mechanism for a High-Risk Leukemia
Researchers uncovered the aberrant mechanism underlying a notoriously treatment-resistant acute lymphoblastic leukemia subtype; findings offer lessons for understanding all cancers.
Visualizing a Cancer Drug Target at Atomic Resolution
Using cryo-electron microscopy, researchers were able to view, in atomic detail, the binding of a potential small molecule drug to a key protein in cancer cells.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
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
2,900+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,200+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!