Iodine deficiency is common throughout the less developed world, resulting in cretinism, goitre, immune incompetence and learning disabilities. Food supplements (e.g. iodized salts) are effective in some parts of the world, but fail in less developed countries because of infrastructure problems. Field fortification is therefore considered desirable. However, iodine leaches readily from soils and its content in most soils is generally low. Plants take up iodine, but crop species show variable efficiency in this ability. For example Brassica napus shows a good ability to take up iodine, while Lycopersicon esculentum and Oryza sativa can take up iodine with lower efficiency. Iodization of irrigation water have been shown to contribute to reducing iodine deficiency disorders. The aim of the project is to provide new technologies to increase the iodine content in plants. This goal will be achieved through an integrated approach including the study of iodine uptake in plants, the development of a protocol for the treatment of crop plants with iodine applied as a leaf spray, and the production of transgenic plants overexpressing the human sodium iodide symporter. Tomato plants treated with iodine salt can increase significantly their iodine content in the fruits.
Learn more on the iodine physiology in plants by reading "Metabolic engineering of the iodine content in Arabidopsis", published in Scientific Reports. You can download the article here.