Recent Advances in our Understanding of Tocopherol Biosynthesis in Plants : An Overview of Key Genes, Functions, and Breeding of Vitamin E Improved Crops
Tocopherols, together with tocotrienols and plastochromanols belong to a group of lipophilic compounds also called tocochromanols or vitamin E. Considered to be one of the most powerful antioxidants, tocochromanols are solely synthesized by photosynthetic organisms including plants, algae, and cyanobacteria and, therefore, are an essential component in the human diet. Tocochromanols potent antioxidative properties are due to their ability to interact with polyunsaturated acyl groups and scavenge lipid peroxyl radicals and quench reactive oxygen species (ROS), thus protecting fatty acids from lipid peroxidation. In the plant model species Arabidopsis thaliana, the required genes for tocopherol biosynthesis and functional roles of tocopherols were elucidated in mutant and transgenic plants. Recent research efforts have led to new outcomes for the vitamin E biosynthetic and related pathways, and new possible alternatives for the biofortification of important crops have been suggested. Here, we review 30 years of research on tocopherols in model and crop species, with emphasis on the improvement of vitamin E content using transgenic approaches and classical breeding. We will discuss future prospects to further improve the nutritional value of our food.