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Potential of Protein-Rich Faba Beans Unlocked; Anti-Nutrient Gene Discovered

An international team of researchers from Denmark, Finland, Germany, the UK, and Canada led by the Universities of Helsinki and Copenhagen as well as Luke Natural Resources Institute Finland has identified the gene responsible for the production of harmful compounds in protein-rich faba beans.

Figure: Blooming faba bean and fruits (Univ. of Helsinki)

 

An international team of researchers from Denmark, Finland, Germany, the UK, and Canada led by the Universities of Helsinki and Copenhagen as well as Luke Natural Resources Institute Finland has identified the gene responsible for the production of harmful compounds in protein-rich faba beans.

 

Faba beans are an excellent protein source, but people in most regions where malaria is endemic and who carry a certain mutation cannot eat the beans. The researchers have now identified the gene responsible for the production of vicine and convicine, which are harmful to these people.

 

The scientists identified the VC1 gene that is responsible for vicine-convicine content. They have also identified the specific mutation within this gene that causes the reduction in synthesis. They found that all faba bean varieties with a low vicine-convicine content descended from a single accession found in a genebank. It had two nucleotides inserted within the VC1 gene. This insertion disrupts VC1 function and is the only known genetic source of low vicine and convicine content. This research provides the complete description of the biosynthetic pathway of vicine and convicine, and ultimately paves the way for breeding, production, and commercial use of faba bean varieties totally free from these anti-nutritional compounds.

 

For more details, read the article on the University of Helsinki website.

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