Engineering cyanogen synthesis and turnover in cassava (Manihot esculenta)

Plant Molecular Biology
Dimuth Siritunga, Richard T Sayre


Cassava is the major root crop for a quarter billion subsistence farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. It is valued for its ability to grow in adverse environments and the food security it provides. Cassava contains potentially toxic levels of cyanogenic glycosides (linamarin) which protect the plant from herbivory and theft. The cyanogens, including linamarin and its deglycosylated product, acetone cyanohydrin, can be efficiently removed from the root by various processing procedures. Short-cuts in processing, which may occur during famines, can result in only partial removal of cyanogens. Residual cyanogens in cassava foods may cause neurological disorders or paralysis, particularly in nutritionally compromised individuals. To address this problem and to further understand the function of cyanogenic glycosides in cassava, we have generated transgenic cassava in which cyanogenic glycoside synthesis has been selectively inhibited in leaves and roots by antisense expression of CYP79D1/D2 gene fragments. The CYP79D1/D2 genes encode two highly similar cytochrome P450s that catalyze the first-dedicated step in cyanogenic glycoside synthesis. Transgenic plants in which the expression of these genes was selectively inhibited in leaves had s...Continue Reading


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