New soybeans bred for oil thats more heart healthy

September 17, 2010

Products made from soy oil stand to benefit from two new germplasm lines that produce high levels of oleic acid, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and university scientists. According to Molecular Biologist Kristin Bilyeu with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Columbia, Mo., increasing soy oil’s level of the monounsaturated fat can avoid resorting to hydrogenation. Besides converting liquid oil into a solid, like margarine, hydrogenation helps to improve shelf life and product quality. But it also generates trans-fats, which alter the body’s blood cholesterol levels, producing more of the “bad” LDL cholesterol than the “good” HDL cholesterol.

In a new issue of BMC Plant Biology, Bilyeu and colleagues report their identification and use of a mutant pair of alleles, or gene copies, to bolster soy’s oleic-acid production.

Typically, soy oil is 13% palmitic acid, 4% stearic acid, 20% oleic acid, 55% linoleic acid, and 8% linolenic acid. But the new beans contain more than 80% oleic acid, reports Bilyeu, who collaborated with scientists at the University of Missouri and Kyungpook University in the Republic of Korea.

Other research groups have successfully used transgenic methods such as gene silencing to increase soy’s oleic-acid levels. But the ARS-university team used classical plant breeding instead, “endowing” their soy lines with two mutant alleles for the gene FAD2.

Normally, its orchestration of biochemical events in soybean seed favors production of linoleic acid and other unsaturated fatty acids. However, combining the two naturally-occurring variant alleles (FAD2-1A and FAD2-1B) reversed the situation, generating more oleic acid.

Field trials in Missouri and Costa Rica indicate the soy lines’ oleic-acid production can stay fairly constant across diverse growing conditions. Additional tests are planned.

Press release