Improving protein content and quality by over-expressing artificially synthetic fusion proteins with high lysine and threonine constituent in rice plants
Rice grains are rich in starch but low in protein with very low level of both lysine and threonine. Thus, it is important to further improve protein quality and quantity, especially to increase lysine and threonine content in rice grains. We artificially synthesized two new genes by fusing endogenous rice genes with lysine (K)/threonine (T) motif (TKTKK) coding sequences. They were designated as TKTKK1 and TKTKK2 and their encoded proteins consist of 73.1% and 83.5% of lysine/threonine, respectively. These two genes were under the control of 35S promoter and were independently introduced into the rice genome to generate transgenic plants. Our data showed that overexpression of TKTKK1 generated stable proteins with expected molecular weight and the transgenic rice seeds significantly increased lysine, threonine, total amino acids and crude protein content by 33.87%, 21.21%, 19.43% and 20.45%, respectively when compared with wild type control; significant improvement was also observed in transgenic rice seeds overexpressing TKTKK2. However, limited improvement in protein quality and quantity was observed in transgenic seeds carrying tandom array of these two new genes. Our data provide the basis and alternative strategy on further improving protein quality and quantity in other crops or vegetable plants by synthetic biology.