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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Flavonoid engineering of flax potentiate its biotechnological application

Magdalena Żuk15*, Anna Kulma1, Lucyna Dymińska2, Katarzyna Szołtysek2, Anna Prescha3, Jerzy Hanuza24 and Jan Szopa15

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Biotechnology, University of Wrocław, Poland

2 Institute of Chemistry and Food Technology, Faculty of Economics and Engineering, University of Economics, Wrocław, Poland

3 Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Wroclaw Medical University, Nankiera 1, 50-140 Wrocław, Poland

4 Institute of Low Temperatures and Structure Research, Polish Academy of Sciences, Wrocław, Poland

5 Linum Fundation, Stablowicka 147/149,54-066 Wroclaw, Poland

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BMC Biotechnology 2011, 11:10  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-11-10

Published: 28 January 2011



Flavonoids are a group of secondary plant metabolites important for plant growth and development. They show also a protective effect against colon and breast cancer, diabetes, hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis, lupus nephritis, and immune and inflammatory reactions. Thus, overproduction of these compounds in flax by genetic engineering method might potentiate biotechnological application of these plant products.


Flax plants of third generation overexpressing key genes of flavonoid pathway cultivated in field were used as plant material throughout this study. The biochemical properties of seed, oil and seedcake extracts and fibre from natural and transgenic flax plants were compared. The data obtained suggests that the introduced genes were stably inherited and expressed through plant generations.

Overproduction of flavonoid compounds resulted in increase of fatty acids accumulation in oil from transgenic seeds due to protection from oxidation offered during synthesis and seed maturation. The biochemical analysis of seedcake extracts from seeds of transgenic flax revealed significant increase in flavonoids (kaempferol), phenolic acids (coumaric, ferulic, synapic acids) and lignan content. Fibres, another product of flax plant showed increase in the level of catechine and acetylvanillone and decrease in phenolic acids upon flax modification.

Biochemical analysis results were confirmed using IR spectroscopy. The integral intensities of IR bands have been used for identification of the component of phenylpropanoid pathway in oil, seedcake extract and fibre from control and transgenic flax. It was shown that levels of flavonoids, phenolic acids and lignans in oil and seedcake extract was higher in transgenic flax products compared to control. An FT-IR study of fibres confirmed the biochemical data and revealed that the arrangement of the cellulose polymer in the transgenic fibres differs from the control; in particular a significant decrease in the number of hydrogen bonds was detected.


All analysed products from generated transgenic plants were enriched with antioxidant compounds derived from phenylopropanoid pathway Thus the products provide valuable source of flavonoids, phenolic acids and lignan for biomedical application. The compounds composition and quantity from transgenic plants was confirmed by IR spectroscopy. Thus the infrared spectroscopy appeared to be suitable method for characterization of flax products.