Plant Science Innovation, Center for


Date of this Version



Plant Biotechnology Journal (2021) 19, pp. 1268–1282 doi: 10.1111/pbi.13557




Upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) is an economically important multi-purpose crop cultivated globally for fibre, seed oil and protein. Cottonseed oil also is naturally rich in vitamin E components (collectively known as tocochromanols), with a- and c-tocopherols comprising nearly all of the vitamin E components. By contrast, cottonseeds have little or no tocotrienols, tocochromanols with a wide range of health benefits. Here, we generated transgenic cotton lines expressing the barley (Hordeum vulgare) homogentisate geranylgeranyl transferase coding sequence under the control of the Brassica napus seed-specific promoter, napin. Transgenic cottonseeds had ~twofold to threefold increases in the accumulation of total vitamin E (tocopherols + tocotrienols), with more than 60% c-tocotrienol. Matrix assisted laser desorption ionization-mass spectrometry imaging showed that c-tocotrienol was localized throughout the transgenic embryos. In contrast, the native tocopherols were distributed unequally in both transgenic and non-transgenic embryos. a- Tocopherol was restricted mostly to cotyledon tissues and c-tocopherol was more enriched in the embryonic axis tissues. Production of tocotrienols in cotton embryos had no negative impact on plant performance or yield of other important seed constituents including fibre, oil and protein. Advanced generations of two transgenic events were field grown, and extracts of transgenic seeds showed increased antioxidant activity relative to extracts from non-transgenic seeds. Furthermore, refined cottonseed oil from the two transgenic events showed 30% improvement in oxidative stability relative to the non-transgenic cottonseed oil. Taken together, these materials may provide new opportunities for cottonseed co-products with enhanced vitamin E profile for improved shelf life and nutrition.