Rare genetic variation at Zea mays crtRB1 increases Β-carotene in maize grain

Jianbing Yan, Catherine Bermudez Kandianis, Carlos E. Harjes, Ling Bai, Eun Ha Kim, Xiaohong Yang, Debra J. Skinner, Zhiyuan Fu, Sharon Mitchell, Qing Li, Maria G.Salas Fernandez, Maria Zaharieva, Raman Babu, Yang Fu, Natalia Palacios, Jiansheng Li, Dean Dellapenna, Thomas Brutnell, Edward S. Buckler, Marilyn L. WarburtonTorbert Rocheford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

396 Scopus citations


Breeding to increase Β-carotene levels in cereal grains, termed provitamin A biofortification, is an economical approach to address dietary vitamin A deficiency in the developing world. Experimental evidence from association and linkage populations in maize (Zea mays L.) demonstrate that the gene encoding Β-carotene hydroxylase 1 (crtRB1) underlies a principal quantitative trait locus associated with Β-carotene concentration and conversion in maize kernels. crtRB1 alleles associated with reduced transcript expression correlate with higher Β-carotene concentrations. Genetic variation at crtRB1 also affects hydroxylation efficiency among encoded allozymes, as observed by resultant carotenoid profiles in recombinant expression assays. The most favorable crtRB1 alleles, rare in frequency and unique to temperate germplasm, are being introgressed via inexpensive PCR marker-assisted selection into tropical maize germplasm adapted to developing countries, where it is most needed for human health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)322-327
Number of pages6
JournalNature Genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank K. Pixley and J. Chandler for seed and field experiment coordination and W. White, P. Bermudez, S. Islam, C. Paul, W. Liu, S. Xu and Y. Zhou for carotenoid HPLC profiling. Helpful comments on the manuscript from J. Wilkinson and J. Yu are appreciated. This research was supported by the US Agency for International Development (T.R.), HarvestPlus (T.R., D.D.P., J.Y., J.L., M.L.W.), National Science Foundation (NSF) DBI-0321467, DBI-0820619 (E.S.B.), NSF DBI-0604923 (T.R.), USDA-ARS (E.S.B.), NSF DBI-0501713 (T.B.), TRIAD Foundation (T.B.), China NSF-30821140352 (J.L., J.Y.), China Scholarship Fund (Y.F.) and JBT Fellowship-UIUC (C.B.K.).


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