Neiker-Tecnalia (the Basque Institute of Agricultural Research and Development) is realising a project for obtaining high quality starch in potato tubers (Solanum tuberosum) using new molecular and genetic tools.
The aim of the research is to produce starches which have better physicochemical conditions for its industrial use, as well as for producing healthier and more functional foodstuffs.
In order to obtain new varieties of potato with starches of various qualities, it is necessary to employ new tools, given that it is difficult to achieve genetic improvement with traditional phenotype selection.
Different techniques are employed in this project, such as ‘allele mining', inverse genetics, mapping by association and in vitro assays for evaluating the different starches.
The overall aim is the modulation of the properties of potato starch (modifying the degree of the ramifications of its amylose and amilopectin components, the length of the polymers and the degree of phosphorylation), as well as analysing the effects of these modifications.
To this end, gene alleles of SBE (starch-branching enzyme) with reduced or zero activity are produced and identified, through the application of the Tilling technique (directed mutagenesis) or the ‘allele mine' (analysis of the biodiversity of SBE genes and other possible genes which influence the quality and quantity of starch).
All this enables designing new commercial varieties of potato with starches that have new specific properties.