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PROduction of high value-added carotenoids and proVITamin A in cell factory crops (ProVitA)



Cell factory area


EU Contribution

1 869 285 Euro


36 months


Research project

Starting date


cell factory crops
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Carotenoids are terpenoid pigments very widespread in nature. Dietary carotenoids are able to prevent chronic diseases. In a previous EU-financed effort, the current consortium has obtained genetically modified, high-beta-carotene, "golden" rice and tomatoes. The present project aims to extend this approach to high value-added carotenoids and crops of European interest. Isolation of new genes is envisaged, as well as agronomic, genomic and nutritional studies to address the "substantial equivalence" issue between GM and non-GM plants with altered carotenoid composition.

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  • To isolate plant structural and regulatory genes for the synthesis of antioxidant carotenoids.
  • To transform the tomato fruit into a cell factory for carotenoids: overproduction of lycopene, zeaxanthin, astaxanthin and lutein.
  • To transform the potato tuber into a cell factory for carotenoids: overproduction of lycopene and beta-carotene.
  • To compare, using DNA microarrays, genetically modified crops and classical mutants with altered carotenoid composition.
  • To determine the carotenoid bioavailability in GM crops.
  • To evaluate the agronomic performance of GM crops.

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The workplan is organized into three workpackages:

WP1 Gene hunting: This deals with the isolation of the still-missing structural genes in carotenoid metabolism (epsilon-hydroxylase; aldehyde oxidase and glycosylase; tangerine; neoxanthin synthase). Regulatory genes, like tomato white flower and Arabidopsis genes affecting pigmentation and carotenoid gene promoter expression, will be also sought.

WP2 Genetic engineering and metabolic genomics: This deals with the modification of carotenoid content in tomato and potato, using genetically modified and mutant lines, and with the study, by microarray technology, of the genome expression profiles in such modified lines.

WP3 Nutritional and agronomic evaluation: This deals with the evaluation of the antioxidant and provitamin A activity of carotenoid-fortified plants using animal and in vitro models and with evaluation of the agronomic performance of genetically modified and mutant plants existing in the network and arising from workpackage 2.

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  • Novel plant genes for the synthesis of high value-added carotenoids.
  • Synthesis of novel carotenoids in tomato and potato.
  • Data on the genomic expression profile in GM plants.
  • Data on the bioavailability of carotenoids from GM plants.
  • Data on the agronomic performance of GM plants.

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  Prof. Giovanni Giuliano
Ente per le Nuove tecnologie
l'Energia e l'Ambiente (ENEA)
Casaccia Research Center
PO Box 2400
00100AD Roma, Italy
Tel: +39 630483192
Fax: +39 630483215

  Prof. Peter Bramley
Dept. of Biochemistry Royal Holloway
Univ. of London
TW20 OEX Egham, Surrey, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 1784443555
Fax: +44 1784434326

Dr. Peter Beyer
Institut Biologie II
Univ. Freiburg
Schaenzlestraße 1
79104 Freiburg, Germany
Tel: +49 7612032529
Fax: +49 7612032675

Prof. Bilal Camara
Institut de Biologie Moleculaire
des Plantes CNRS
12, Rue du General Zimmer
67084 Strasbourg Cedex, France
Tel: +33 388417231
Fax: +33 388614442

Prof. Hans Biesalski
Dept. Biological Chemistry & Nutrition
Univ. Hohenheim
Fruwirth 12
70593 Stuttgart, Germany
Tel: +49 7114594112
Fax: +49 7114593822

Prof. Joseph Hirschberg
Dept. Genetics
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Givat Ram Campus
91904 Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: +972 26585662
Fax: +972 25633066

Dr. Marcel Kuntz
Université Joseph Fourier
PO Box 53
38041 Grenoble Cedex 9, France
Tel: +33 476514492
Fax: +33 476514336

Dr. Rachel Drake
Zeneca Agrochemicals,
Jealot's Hill Research Station
RG42 6ET Bracknell, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 1344414201
Fax: +44 1344413886

Mr. Renato Faraone Mennella
FarMen SnC
V. Nazionale 360
80059 Torre del Greco (NA), Italy
Tel: +39 0818471662
Fax: +39 0818472466
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