Scientists now have a better understanding of how chemicals thought to impart unique health benefits to plants in the cabbage family are broken down to promote growth in conditions lacking sufficient sulphur. This, they say, could aid in the future development of broccoli and cabbage that are even healthier for consumers.
Researchers from Kyushu University in Japan reported that disrupting the production of two enzymes in thale cress plants (a relative of cabbage) reduced the conversion of glucosinolates to simpler compounds and further slowed growth when the plants did not receive sufficient amounts of sulphur from their environment.
Produced by plants in the Brassicaceae family, glucosinolates are sulphur-containing compounds that some studies indicate may also be beneficial for preventing cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
However, the plants are known to breakdown glucosinolates in environments deficient of sulphur. While this mechanism appears to act as a strategy to sustain growth under such unfavourable conditions, current knowledge of how the process occurs and contributes to adaptation to sulphur deficiency is limited.
This new research offers a deeper understanding of this mechanism through the study of genetically modified model plants.