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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Nutritional Enrichment of Plant Leaves by Combining Genes Promoting Tocopherol Biosynthesis and Storage

Morelli, Luca; Romanach Laura, Garcia; Glauser, Gaetan; Shanmugabalaji, Venkatasalam; Kessler, Felix; Rodriguez-Concepcion, Manuel


The enrichment of plant tissues in tocochromanols (tocopherols and tocotrienols) is an important biotechnological goal due to their vitamin E and antioxidant properties. Improvements based on stimulating tocochromanol biosynthesis have repeatedly been achieved, however, enhancing sequestering and storage in plant plastids remains virtually unexplored. We previously showed that leaf chloroplasts can be converted into artificial chromoplasts with a proliferation of plastoglobules by overexpression of the bacterial crtB gene. Here we combined coexpression of crtB with genes involved in tocopherol biosynthesis to investigate the potential of artificial leaf chromoplasts for vitamin E accumulation in Nicotiana benthamiana leaves. We show that this combination improves tocopherol levels compared to controls without crtB and confirm that VTE1, VTE5, VTE6 and tyrA genes are useful to increase the total tocopherol levels, while VTE4 further leads to enrichment in alpha-tocopherol (the tocochromanol showing highest vitamin E activity). Additionally, we show that treatments that further promote plastoglobule formation (e.g., exposure to intense light or dark-induced senescence) result in even higher improvements in the tocopherol content of the leaves. An added advantage of our strategy is that it also results in increased levels of other related plastidial isoprenoids such as carotenoids (provitamin A) and phylloquinones (vitamin K1).


tocopherols; vitamins; biofortification; N; benthamiana; transient expression; chromoplasts

Published in

2023, Volume: 13, number: 2, article number: 193Publisher: MDPI