Boosting Fiber Content in Wheat by Enhancing Natural Sugar Storage

Jenn Hoskins
3rd May, 2024

Boosting Fiber Content in Wheat by Enhancing Natural Sugar Storage

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Scientists at Agriculture Victoria discovered that fructans help wheat plants cope with environmental stress and support grain growth
  • Transgenic wheat with enhanced fructan-producing genes showed increased fructan levels, potentially aiding stress tolerance and grain yield
  • The study suggests that optimizing fructan levels in wheat could improve crop resilience, especially in harsh climates
In the quest to enhance crop resilience and food security, scientists at Agriculture Victoria have been studying fructans, a type of carbohydrate that accumulates in wheat. Fructans are believed to play a crucial role in the plant's ability to cope with stress and support grain development. This recent research[1] offers insights into how these carbohydrates may contribute to a wheat plant's survival strategy and productivity. Fructans are polymers made up of fructose molecules, and they serve as a form of energy storage in plants, akin to starch in potatoes or glycogen in humans. In wheat, fructans are stored and later used as a carbon source during the critical phase of grain filling, when the seeds are developing and maturing. Additionally, fructans are implicated in helping plants withstand abiotic stress—environmental factors such as extreme temperatures, drought, or salinity that can negatively affect plant growth. The protective role of fructans is not new to science. Previous research[2] has shown that these carbohydrates can stabilize cell membranes during stress by forming hydrogen bonds with membrane lipids. This process reduces water loss from cells, a critical factor in plant survival during drought or freezing conditions. Furthermore, the molecular weight of fructans can influence their effectiveness, with different sizes offering varying degrees of protection. Fructans also have a significant impact beyond the plant world. In human nutrition, they are recognized as prebiotics[3], which are nondigestible food ingredients that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Fructooligosaccharides, a type of fructan, have been shown to stimulate the growth of health-promoting bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, which can lead to improved digestive health and metabolic functions. The recent findings from Agriculture Victoria delve deeper into the role of fructans in wheat. By investigating the accumulation of these carbohydrates, researchers aim to understand how they can be harnessed to improve wheat's resistance to environmental challenges and enhance grain yield. This could be particularly beneficial in areas prone to harsh climatic conditions, where wheat crops are at greater risk. Moreover, the study builds upon earlier work that identified specific enzymes involved in fructan synthesis. For instance, a cDNA library screening of artichoke blossom discs led to the isolation of a clone, Cy21, which was found to be responsible for the production of a fructan called 1-kestose[4]. Understanding the enzymes that synthesize fructans in different plants, such as wheat, could pave the way for genetic or agronomic strategies to optimize fructan production for better stress tolerance and crop yields. The work by Agriculture Victoria contributes to a growing body of knowledge that underscores the importance of fructans in plant biology and agriculture. By dissecting the mechanisms through which fructans operate, researchers can potentially develop wheat varieties that are more robust against environmental stresses and more efficient in their energy use during grain development. This research not only has implications for plant science but also for the food industry and human health. The dual role of fructans as plant protectants and prebiotics highlights their significance across different sectors. As scientists continue to unravel the mysteries of these versatile carbohydrates, we may see advances in crop production and nutrition that benefit both agriculture and consumers. The insights gained from these studies could lead to wheat varieties that are not only more resilient to climate change but also more beneficial to human health, demonstrating the interconnectedness of our food systems and natural ecosystems.

BiotechGeneticsPlant Science


Main Study

1) Modified fructan accumulation through overexpression of wheat fructan biosynthesis pathway fusion genes Ta1SST:Ta6SFT

Published 30th April, 2024

Related Studies

2) Plant fructans in stress environments: emerging concepts and future prospects.

3) Dietary modulation of the human colonic microbiota: introducing the concept of prebiotics.

Journal: The Journal of nutrition, Issue: Vol 125, Issue 6, Jun 1995

4) Transgenic potato tubers accumulate high levels of 1-kestose and nystose: functional identification of a sucrose sucrose 1-fructosyltransferase of artichoke (Cynara scolymus) blossom discs.

Journal: The Plant journal : for cell and molecular biology, Issue: Vol 12, Issue 5, Nov 1997

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