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Folate Biofortification in Hydroponically Cultivated Spinach by the Addition of Phenylalanine

Watanabe, Sho, Ohtani, Yuta, Tatsukami, Yohei, Aoki, Wataru, Amemiya, Takashi, Sukekiyo, Yasunori, Kubokawa, Seiichi, Ueda, Mitsuyoshi
Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 2017 v.65 no.23 pp. 4605-4610
Spinacia oleracea, adults, biofortification, biosynthesis, dietary recommendations, folic acid, food crops, genetic engineering, genetically modified foods, hydroponics, liquid chromatography, metabolic engineering, p-aminobenzoic acid, phenylalanine, sales, spinach, tandem mass spectrometry, vitamin B deficiency
Folate is an important vitamin mainly ingested from vegetables, and folate deficiency causes various health problems. Recently, several studies demonstrated folate biofortification in plants or food crops by metabolic engineering through genetic modifications. However, the production and sales of genetically modified foods are under strict regulation. Here, we developed a new approach to achieve folate biofortification in spinach (Spinacia oleracea) without genetic modification. We hydroponically cultivated spinach with the addition of three candidate compounds expected to fortify folate. As a result of liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry analysis, we found that the addition of phenylalanine increased the folate content up to 2.0-fold (306 μg in 100 g of fresh spinach), representing 76.5% of the recommended daily allowance for adults. By measuring the intermediates of folate biosynthesis, we revealed that phenylalanine activated folate biosynthesis in spinach by increasing the levels of pteridine and p-aminobenzoic acid. Our approach is a promising and practical approach to cultivate nutrient-enriched vegetables.