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02 / 10 / 2017

Iron in Plant Foods: Exploring the Basic Mechanisms of Iron Transport in Cereal Grains (BALKJ18DTP1)

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Staple crops such as rice, wheat and maize have low amounts of iron and zinc after standard food processing procedures (e.g. polishing of rice, milling). People who rely on these crops as their main energy source are at risk of developing mineral deficiencies. Iron deficiency anemia is widespread among women and children in Asia and East Africa, but also in 5% of the developed world. Our recent research has shown that plants can be 'made' to redirect iron into the starchy parts of the grain. By changing the expression of an iron transporter in wheat, we generated wheat lines with double the amount of iron in white flour (Connorton et al 2017 Plant Physiol). This PhD project will further explore the basic mechanisms of iron transport in cereal grains, and investigate heritage wheat varieties to find old landraces with increased iron. The student will be part of the Balk and Uauy labs working at the forefront of genomics and micronutrients in plants. The project offers opportunities to intersect with human nutrition research and international efforts to biofortify crops through the collaborative networks of the Balk and Uauy groups.