Some portion of calcium in foods is bioavailable, meaning it is digested, absorbed and metabolized. This bioavailable calcium affects various developmental processes including bone formation and calcification. Vegetables are potentially important dietary sources of calcium but currently most vegetables do not contain high levels of bioavailable calcium. Enhancing the concentration of bioavailable calcium in vegetables would enhance their value in providing dietary calcium. The ability to genetically alter the calcium content of agriculturally important crops is just emerging; however, how these changes may affect the nutritional aspects of calcium bioavailability is unknown. We propose to investigate how changes in the calcium partitioning, in agriculturally important plants such as potatoes and the forage crop Medicago truncatula, affect nutrient availability. In potatoes, we have expressed high levels of a plant endomembrane calcium transporter that more than doubles the calcium content of the potatoes. In Medicago truncatula, we have identified plants that contain similar amounts of calcium, but vary in the amount they partition into the oxalate salt. This plant will serve as a model for how the level of bioavailable calcium could be enhance In various plant foods (e.g., spinach) through the manipulation of the sequestered form of calcium. Oxalate is an """"""""antinutrient"""""""" and sequesters calcium in a form that is unavailable for nutritional absorption by man. These genetically altered plants will be assayed for alterations in nutrient content by measuring calcium absorption in vivo. We will assay how diets containing these modified plants alter calcium absorption in mice and humans. The experimental approach detailed here forms a framework for evaluating the nutritional consequences of genetically modified foods. Results from this specific study should define the nutritional impact of altering the cellular distribution of calcium within a plant cell. Eventually, the application of the approaches used here may be used to fortify various staple crops to erode the gap between calcium intake and requirements. ? ?

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Nutrition Study Section (NTN)
Program Officer
May, Michael K
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Baylor College of Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Hirschi, Kendal D (2009) Nutrient biofortification of food crops. Annu Rev Nutr 29:401-21
Park, Sunghun; Elless, Mark P; Park, Jungeun et al. (2009) Sensory analysis of calcium-biofortified lettuce. Plant Biotechnol J 7:106-17
Hirschi, Kendal (2008) Nutritional improvements in plants: time to bite on biofortified foods. Trends Plant Sci 13:459-63
Morris, Jay; Hawthorne, Keli M; Hotze, Tim et al. (2008) Nutritional impact of elevated calcium transport activity in carrots. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 105:1431-5
Morris, Jay; Nakata, Paul A; McConn, Michele et al. (2007) Increased calcium bioavailability in mice fed genetically engineered plants lacking calcium oxalate. Plant Mol Biol 64:613-8
Park, Sunghun; Kang, Tae-Suk; Kim, Chang-Kil et al. (2005) Genetic manipulation for enhancing calcium content in potato tuber. J Agric Food Chem 53:5598-603
Park, Sunghun; Cheng, Ning Hui; Pittman, Jon K et al. (2005) Increased calcium levels and prolonged shelf life in tomatoes expressing Arabidopsis H+/Ca2+ transporters. Plant Physiol 139:1194-206
Hirschi, Kendal D (2004) The calcium conundrum. Both versatile nutrient and specific signal. Plant Physiol 136:2438-42