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Keywords:

  • amyloplast;
  • β-carotene;
  • cereals;
  • fruit;
  • plastid;
  • regulation.

ABSTRACT

Carotenoids are plant pigments that function as antioxidants, hormone precursors, colourants and essential components of the photosynthetic apparatus. Carotenoids accumulate in nearly all types of plastids, not just the chloroplast, and are thus found in most plant organs and tissues, albeit at trace levels in some tissues. In this review we summarise the current knowledge of the carotenoid content of non-green plastids and discuss what is known about the regulation of their biosynthesis in roots, fruits, flowers, tubers and seeds. The emphasis is on food crops as carotenoids are essential components of human diets, primarily as some are precursors of vitamin A. The low carotenoid content of many staple foods, such as cereals, can exacerbate dietary deficiencies. The World Health Organisation has estimated that more than 100 million children are vitamin A-deficient and up to 500,000 of these children become blind each year. Many of these children die within 12 months of going blind. Thus, understanding the regulation of carotenoid accumulation in food crops, especially tubers and cereals, should facilitate improvements to nutritional value with potentially significant health benefits.