Clemens, S: Zn and Fe biofortification: the right chemical environment for human bioavailability, Plant Science, 225, 52-57 (2014), doi:10.1016/j.plantsci.2014.05.014 [Link]
A considerable fraction of global disease burden and child mortality is attributed to Fe and Zn deficiencies. Biofortification, i.e. the development of plants with more bioavailable Zn and Fe, is widely seen as the most sustainable solution, provided suitable crops can be generated. In a cereal-dominated diet availability of Fe and Zn for absorption by the human gut is generally low and influenced by a highly complex chemistry. This complexity has mostly been attributed to the inhibitory effect of Fe and Zn binding by phytate, the principal phosphorus storage compound in cereal and legume seeds. However, phytate is only part of the answer to the multifaceted bioavailability question, albeit an important one. Recent analyses addressing elemental distribution and micronutrient speciation in seeds strongly suggest the existence of different Fe and Zn pools. Exploration of natural variation in maize showed partial separation of phytate levels and Fe bioavailability. Observations made with transgenic plants engineered for biofortification lend further support to this view. From a series of studies the metal chelator nicotianamine is emerging as a key molecule. Importantly, nicotianamine levels have been found to not only increase the loading of Fe and Zn into grains. Bioavailability assays indicate a strong activity of nicotianamine also as an enhancer of intestinal Fe and Zn absorption.

last modified 2014-07-11