Biochemistry, Department of


Date of this Version



aBIOTECH (2021) 2:191–214


Used by permission.


Staple grains with low levels of provitamin A carotenoids contribute to the global prevalence of vitamin A deficiency and therefore are the main targets for provitamin A biofortification. However, carotenoid stability during both seed maturation and postharvest storage is a serious concern for the full benefits of carotenoid biofortified grains. In this study, we utilized Arabidopsis as a model to establish carotenoid biofortification strategies in seeds. We discovered that manipulation of carotenoid biosynthetic activity by seed-specific expression of Phytoene synthase (PSY) increases both provitamin A and total carotenoid levels but the increased carotenoids are prone to degradation during seed maturation and storage, consistent with previous studies of provitamin A biofortified grains. In contrast, stacking with Orange (ORHis), a gene that initiates chromoplast biogenesis, dramatically enhances provitamin A and total carotenoid content and stability. Up to 65- and 10-fold increases of β-carotene and total carotenoids, respectively, with provitamin A carotenoids composing over 63% were observed in the seeds containing ORHis and PSY. Co-expression of Homogentisate geranylgeranyl transferase (HGGT) with ORHis and PSY further increases carotenoid accumulation and stability during seed maturation and storage. Moreover, knocking-out of β-carotene hydroxylase 2 (BCH2) by CRISPR/Cas9 not only potentially facilitates β-carotene accumulation but also minimizes the negative effect of carotenoid over production on seed germination. Our findings provide new insights into various processes on carotenoid accumulation and stability in seeds and establish a multiplexed strategy to simultaneously target carotenoid biosynthesis, turnover, and stable storage for carotenoid biofortification in crop seeds.