Plant proteins, when used as dietary protein, are generally incomplete in nutrition due to their deficiency in several essential amino acids, for example, lysine and tryptophan in cereals and methionine and cysteine in legumes. Attempts to breed crops with increased levels of lysine and methionine have been less than satisfactory. Modern biotechnology offers alternative approaches for rectifying this nutrition deficiency. In the past decade, several transgenic strategies aimed at modifying the amino acid composition of plant proteins and enhancing the content of specific essential amino acid(s) for nutrition improvement have been developed and tested. These include synthetic proteins, modification of protein sequences, over-expression of heterologous or homologous proteins, and metabolic engineering of the free essential amino acid pool and protein sink. The progress and potential of these approaches and studies are reviewed. As plant proteins are the primary source of all dietary protein consumed by humans and animals and are inexpensive to produce in comparison with meat, improving their quality will make a significant contribution to our future food needs. The research and development in this area of interest is making promising progress towards this endeavor.
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Vol. 40 • No. 2