Skip to main content
Transgenic maize endosperm containing a milk protein has improved amino acid balance
Transgenic Research
  • Earl H. Bicar, Iowa State University
  • Wendy Woodman-Clikeman, Iowa State University
  • Varaporn Sangtong, Iowa State University
  • Joan M. Peterson, Iowa State University
  • S. Samuel Yang, Iowa State University
  • Michael Lee, Iowa State University
  • Marvin Paul Scott, United States Department of Agriculture
Document Type
Publication Version
Published Version
Publication Date
In order to meet the protein nutrition needs of the world population, greater reliance on plant protein sources will become necessary. The amino acid balance of most plant protein sources does not match the nutritional requirements of monogastric animals, limiting their nutritional value. In cereals, the essential amino acid lysine is deficient. Maize is a major component of human and animal diets worldwide and especially where sources of plant protein are in critical need such as sub-Saharan Africa. To improve the amino acid balance of maize, we developed transgenic maize lines that produce the milk protein α-lactalbumin in the endosperm. Lines in which the transgene was inherited as a single dominant genetic locus were identified. Sibling kernels with or without the transgene were compared to determine the effect of the transgene on kernel traits in lines selected for their high content of α-lactalbumin. Total protein content in endosperm from transgene positive kernels was not significantly different from total protein content in endosperm from transgene negative kernels in three out of four comparisons, whereas the lysine content of the lines examined was 29–47% greater in endosperm from transgene positive kernels. The content of some other amino acids was changed to a lesser extent. Taken together, these changes resulted in the transgenic endosperms having an improved amino acid balance relative to non-transgenic endosperms produced on the same ear. Kernel appearance, weight, density and zein content did not exhibit substantial differences in kernels expressing the transgene when compared to non-expressing siblings. Assessment of the antigenicity and impacts on animal health will be required in order to determine the overall value of this technology.

This article is from Transgenic Research 17 (2008): 59, doi:10.1007/s11248-007-9081-3 .

Works produced by employees of the U.S. Government as part of their official duties are not copyrighted within the U.S. The content of this document is not copyrighted.
File Format
Citation Information
Earl H. Bicar, Wendy Woodman-Clikeman, Varaporn Sangtong, Joan M. Peterson, et al.. "Transgenic maize endosperm containing a milk protein has improved amino acid balance" Transgenic Research Vol. 17 Iss. 1 (2008) p. 59 - 71
Available at: