Genetically improved nutrient from corn could benefit millions

nutrient from corn

nutrient from corn

Corn, the world’s largest material crop. Now, scientists enhance the nutritional value of corn by inserting a bacterial gene that causes it to produce a key nutrient called methionine.

The discovery of Rutgers University could benefit millions of people in developing countries, such as in South America and Africa. The two countries depend on corn as a staple. It could also significantly reduce worldwide animal feed costs.

“We improved the nutritional value of corn, the largest commodity crop grown on Earth,” said, Thomas Leustek, study co-author. Mostly, corn used for animal feed, but it lacks methionine, a key amino acid.


Methionine is one of the nine essential amino acids that humans get from food. It needed for growth and tissue repair, improves the tone and flexibility of skin and hair, and strengthens nails. The sulfur in methionine protects cells from pollutants, slows cell aging and absorbs selenium and zinc.

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Every year, synthetic methionine worth several billion dollars are added to field corn seed, which lacks the substance in nature, said, study senior author Joachim Messing. It is a costly, and energy-consuming process. In many developing countries where corn is a staple. Methionine is also an important source for people, especially children. It’s vital nutrition like a vitamin.

According to the study, chicken feed usually prepared as a corn-soybean mixture, and methionine is the sole essential sulfur-containing amino acid that’s missing.

The Rutgers scientists inserted an E. coli bacterial gene into the corn plant’s genome and grew several generations of corn. The E. coli enzyme, 3′-Phosphoadenosine-5′-phosphosulfate (EcPAPR), pointed methionine production in just the plant’s leaves instead of the entire plant to avoid the accumulation of toxic byproducts. According to the result, methionine in corn seeds increased by 57 percent.

For testing, the scientists conducted a chicken feeding trial and showed that the genetically engineered corn was nutritious for them. One important outcome is corn plant growth not affected.

Researchers say, in the world meat proteins have lots of methionine. But, self-sufficiency farming corn for their family’s consumption. Our study shows that they wouldn’t have to purchase methionine supplements or expensive foods that have higher methionine.

More information: [PNAS]