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K-State Today

May 1, 2018

Davina Rhodes to be featured speaker for May 2 Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Seminar

Submitted by Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics

Davina Rhodes, assistant professor of agronomy, will be featured as the final speaker for the Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Seminar series this semester. She will present "Nutritional genomics: towards more nutritious food crops" at 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 2, in 120 Ackert Hall.

Rhodes received her doctorate in integrative biology from the University of South Carolina and her master's in human nutrition from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She served as a postdoctoral fellow with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service to develop molecular breeding resources for increased grain carotenoids in sorghum before coming to Kansas State University. Her current research is focused on determining how nutrient composition in food is controlled by genomic differences in food plants and how that impacts human nutrition. It uses a combination of cereal chemistry, crop genetics, and human nutrition tools.

Presentation abstract: To reduce micronutrient malnutrition, staple crops can be biofortified using molecular breeding. A better understanding of the genetic regulations of biochemical pathways underlying nutrient variation is needed in order to take full advantage of molecular breeding. We want to biofortify provitamin A carotenoids in sorghum grain in order to reduce vitamin A deficiency. We are using genome-wide association studies, or GWAS, to help elucidate the genetic basis of carotenoid variation in sorghum grain. A panel of 400 diverse germplasm were quantified using high-performance liquid chromatography and a range of concentrations were found for lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene and total carotenoids. Additionally, to provide a high-throughput method for carotenoid characterization, we are developing near-infrared spectroscopy models to predict carotenoid concentrations. Finally, we mapped the genetic basis of sorghum grain carotenoids using GWAS and identified known and novel genes controlling sorghum carotenoid variation, including a gene known to be the major control for zeaxanthin variation in maize grain. These tools provide a basis for molecular breeding to increase the carotenoid concentrations in sorghum grain.