Carrots contribute ≈14% of the total Vitamin A to the human diet in the United States due to the presence of the provitamin A carotenoids α- and β-carotene. We have described a recessive gene (rp) that inhibits carotenoid biosynthesis in carrot by 93%, resulting in whitish-yellow roots. The rp mutation is also associated with relatively high levels of a tocopherol (Vitamin E, 0.61±0.15 mg α-tocopherol/100 g FW). Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that must be obtained from the diet. The biosynthesis of a tocopherol in carrot has not been studied in any detail; however, the rp gene may provide clues as to its mechanism. The production of carotenoids and tocopherols is biosynthetically linked by their common precursor, geranylgeranyl diphosphate (GGDP). GGDP is converted into phytoene by phytoene desaturase to produce carotenoids and combined with homogentisic acid to produce tocopherols. Carotenoid and tocopherol profiles for various carrot genotypes are presented alongside a model describing the potential relationship between root carotenoids and tocopherols in carrot. The presence of significant amounts of tocopherols in carrot could significantly raise the nutritional profile of this vegetable.
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