The cotton plant has long been an important source of clothing for humans, but it may soon provide them with high-protein nourishment, too. U.S. scientists say they’ve found a way to remove a toxic compound from cottonseed that’s so far prevented the high-protein seed from being eaten by people. The study was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The exciting finding is that we have been able to reduce gossypol — which is a very toxic compound — from cottonseed to a level that is considered safe for consumption,” Dr. Keerti Rathore, a plant biotechnologist at the Texas Agricultural Experimental Station, said in a prepared statement.
To remove gossypol from cottonseeds, Keerti Rathore and colleagues from the Institute for Plant Genomics and Biotechnology, A&M University, Texas used RNA interference to disrupt a key gene for synthesizing gossypol in developing seeds, according to an article publishing online this week in the proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences.
The technique produced mature seeds with gossypol levels well below the safe level for human consumption. Gossypol levels remained high in other parts of the cotton plant, however, allowing the seeds to maintain their natural, chemical defences.
Co-authors include Ganesan Sunilkumar, LeAnne M Campbell, Lorraine Puckhaber, and Robert D Stipanovic.