The present paper summarizes the current state of knowledge on cereal phytase that are particular relevant for improving mineral and phosphate bio-availability. Phytases can initiate the hydrolysis of phytate, the main storage form of phosphate in cereals and the major anti-nutritional factor for the bio-availability of micronutrients in human nutrition. The composition and levels of mature grain phytase activity (MGPA) in cereals is of central importance for efficient phytate hydrolysis. The MGPA varies considerably between species. Substantial activity is present in Triticeae tribe cereals like wheat, barley and rye whereas non-Triticeae cereals such as maize and rice have very little MGPA. Recent studies have determined the evolutionary relationships of phytases in Triticeae and non-Triticeae and highlighted the importance of the purple acid phosphatase phytases (PAPhys). In the Triticeae, PAPhys are synthesized during grain development (PAPhy_a) and during germination (PAPhy_b). In non-Triticeae species, only PAPhys that are mainly synthesized during germination were identified. The new knowledge provides new opportunities for modulating the MGPA in Triticeae cereals but also indicates that nutritionally relevant levels of MGPA are unlikely to be achieved in non-Triticeae by conventional breeding. Increasing MGPA in barley via cisgenesis is discussed.
Journal of Cereal Science, 2014, Vol 59, Issue 3, p. 373-381