Engineered Tomato Has Daily Folate in One Serving

Folate levels up 25-fold over normal concentration in vine-ripened fruit

WEDNESDAY, March 7 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have developed a genetically engineered tomato that has up to 25 times the normal concentration of folate, providing the complete adult daily requirement of folate in less than one serving, according to a report published in the March 6 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Andrew D. Hanson, Ph.D., of the University of Florida in Gainesville, and colleagues sought to enhance folate production in plants already rich in folate, like tomatoes. Initial efforts to biofortify folate in tomatoes produced fruit that had two times the normal levels, but were depleted in the folate precursor ρ-aminobenzoate (PABA).

By crossing engineered fruit that overproduce both folate precursors, pteridine and PABA, vine-ripened tomatoes were found to produce up to 25-times the normal level of folate. Folate levels reached 15-fold in fruit ripened off the vine using ethylene-gassing, as occurs in commerce.

"We conclude that the technology for plant folate enhancement is in place, and may well be transferable to other food plants such as tubers and cereal grains," the authors write. Further research should verify the safety of pteridines accumulated in fruits and other plants, they add.

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