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Researchers Detoxify Cassava

NSF Award:

RIG/CAA: A road to more nutritious cassava: Cloning, functional characterization and over-expression of B-cyanoalanine synthase gene from cassava  (University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez)

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The most important of the cyanogenic (capable of generating cyanide) crops is the tropical root crop cassava (Manihot esculenta). This woody perennial shrub serves as a basic staple food for over 600 million people worldwide, mostly in developing regions. Though a good source of calories per unit of land, cassava roots lack appreciable amounts of protein. Cassava also contains cyanogenic glucosides, linamarin and lotaustralin, which are broken down in the human body and damage nerve and liver tissue, as well as interfering with iodine uptake. Although properly processed cassava is a safe and invaluable source of food, a number of cyanide-associated health disorders have been attributed to eating inadequately processed cassava.

Researchers at the University of Puerto Rico have isolated two cassava genes (Manes-CAS-A and Manes-CAS-B), which are central for the conversion of cyanide to a non-protein amino acid. Isolation of these genes may help researchers develop a more nutritious, less toxic food source for millions people worldwide, some of whom undoubtedly are nutritionally compromised.


  • Photo of a cassava bulb
A cassava bulb
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