Researchers modified corn genes to produce methionine

Scientists have found an efficient way to increase the nutritional value of corn by inputting bacterial genes to produce methionine. Researchers say corn as the world's largest food commodity is increasingly profitable for millions of people in developing countries and significantly reduces the cost of animal feed worldwide.

Tinuku Researchers modified corn genes to produce methionine

Researchers from Rutgers University and the Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences modified the maize genes by planting the bacterial gene to produce the methionine commonly found in meat as one of the nine essential amino acids for humans from food.

"We are improving the nutritional value of corn, the largest commodity on Earth. Most corn is used for human food and livestock, but lacks methionine as an important amino acid. We find an effective way to add it," said Thomas Leustek, a researcher at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

Methionine is necessary for tissue growth and repair, improves skin and hair flexibility, and strengthens nails. Sulfur in methionine protects cells from pollutants, slowing cell aging and is essential for absorbing selenium and zinc.

Joachim Messing, a researcher at Rutgers University in Piscataway, says that annually multibillion-dollar synthetic methionine products are added to corn seeds that have no substance in nature. Genetic modification to add methionine to corn allows a more efficient way.

"This is a costly and expensive process. Methionine is added because animals will not grow without the amino acid.In many developing countries where corn is the staple food, methionine is also important for humans, especially children. This is an important nutrient," Messing said.

Chicken feed is usually prepared as a mixture of corn-soy and methionine is the only sulfur-containing amino acid that is important to them. The researchers report the findings to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research team entered the bacterial gene Escherichia coli into the genome of corn plants and planted several generations of maize. The EcPAPR enzyme stimulates the production of methionine in leaves and not whole plants to avoid the accumulation of toxic byproducts.

Leustek said methionine in corn kernels increased by 57 percent and did not affect the growth of maize. The team also conducted feeding experiments on chickens in Rutgers where genetically modified corns improved their nutrition.

"We show developing countries do not need to buy supplements or buy expensive food to get higher methionine," says Leustek.