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General Information

Document type
  • Peer-reviewed journal article
GE organism
  • sweet orange
GE trait
  • Quality
  • Agronomic properties
  • Spain


  • positive effect
Safety for consumption
  • positive effect

Metabolic engineering of β-carotene in orange fruit increases its in vivo antioxidant properties Open Access

Pons, E; Alquézar, B; Rodríguez, A; Martorell, P; Genovés, S; Ramón, D; Rodrigo, MJ; Zacarías, L; Peña, L
Plant Biotechnology Journal. 2014 January. 12(1):17–27

Link to full text (open access, freely available)

PMID: 24034339 DOI: 10.1111/pbi.12112 ISSN: 1467-7644


Orange is a major crop and an important source of health-promoting bioactive compounds. Increasing the levels of specific antioxidants in orange fruit through metabolic engineering could strengthen the fruit's health benefits. In this work, we have afforded enhancing the β-carotene content of orange fruit through blocking by RNA interference the expression of an endogenous β-carotene hydroxylase gene (Csβ-CHX) that is involved in the conversion of β-carotene into xanthophylls. Additionally, we have simultaneously overexpressed a key regulator gene of flowering transition, the FLOWERING LOCUS T from sweet orange (CsFT), in the transgenic juvenile plants, which allowed us to obtain fruit in an extremely short period of time. Silencing the Csβ-CHX gene resulted in oranges with a deep yellow ('golden') phenotype and significant increases (up to 36-fold) in β-carotene content in the pulp. The capacity of β-carotene-enriched oranges for protection against oxidative stress in vivo was assessed using Caenorhabditis elegans as experimental animal model. Golden oranges induced a 20% higher antioxidant effect than the isogenic control. This is the first example of the successful metabolic engineering of the β-carotene content (or the content of any other phytonutrient) in oranges and demonstrates the potential of genetic engineering for the nutritional enhancement of fruit tree crops.


citrus; health; Caenorhabditis elegans; FLOWERING LOCUS T; carotenoids; genetic transformation


Funding source
  • Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation
  • European Regional Development Fund
  • Generalitat Valenciana Citrus Research and Development Foundation from Florida
Funding country
  • Spain
  • EU
  • United States
Funding type
  • government
  • NGO: same industry aligned

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Cite this study


Pons, E, B Alquézar, A Rodríguez, P Martorell, S Genovés, D Ramón, MJ Rodrigo, L Zacarías, L Peña. "Metabolic engineering of β-carotene in orange fruit increases its in vivo antioxidant properties." Plant Biotechnology Journal 12.1 (2014): 17–27. Web. 24 Jul. 2024.


Pons, E., Alquézar, B., Rodríguez, A., Martorell, P., Genovés, S., Ramón, D., Rodrigo, MJ., Zacarías, L., Peña, L. (2014). Metabolic engineering of β-carotene in orange fruit increases its in vivo antioxidant properties. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 12(1), 17–27. doi:10.1111/pbi.12112

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