Plant prebiotics and human health: Biotechnology to breed prebiotic-rich nutritious food crops|
Dwivedi, Sangam; Sahrawat, Kanwar; Puppala, Naveen & Ortiz, Rodomiro
Microbiota in the gut play essential roles in human health. Prebiotics are non-digestible complex carbohydrates
that are fermented in the colon, yielding energy and short chain fatty acids, and selectively promote the growth of
Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillae in the gastro-intestinal tract. Fructans and inulin are the best-characterized plant
prebiotics. Many vegetable, root and tuber crops as well as some fruit crops are the best-known sources of
prebiotic carbohydrates, while the prebiotic-rich grain crops include barley, chickpea, lentil, lupin, and wheat.
Some prebiotic-rich crop germplasm have been reported in barley, chickpea, lentil, wheat, yacon, and
Jerusalem artichoke. A few major quantitative trait loci and gene-based markers associated with high fructan
are known in wheat. More targeted search in genebanks using reduced subsets (representing diversity in
germplasm) is needed to identify accessions with prebiotic carbohydrates. Transgenic maize, potato and
sugarcane with high fructan, with no adverse effects on plant development, have been bred, which suggests
that it is feasible to introduce fructan biosynthesis pathways in crops to produce health-imparting prebiotics.
Developing prebiotic-rich and super nutritious crops will alleviate the widespread malnutrition and promote
human health. A paradigm shift in breeding program is needed to achieve this goal and to ensure that
newly-bred crop cultivars are nutritious, safe and health promoting.
Germplasm; Gut microbiota; Human health; Non-digestible fibers; Transgene