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Characterization of raffinose family oligosaccharides in lentil seeds



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Raffinose family oligosaccharides (RFO) are major soluble carbohydrates of lentil (Lens culinaris Medik) seeds. When consumed by humans, RFO pass indigested through upper digestive tract as α-galactosidase enzyme required for RFO breakdown is not produced in humans. Consumption of lentils with high concentrations of RFO result in stomach discomfort, bloating and diarrhea due to bacterial fermentation of RFO in large intestine. This has lead to a relatively low use of lentils for human consumption. RFO are therefore considered anti-nutritional factors and development of lentil cultivars with reduced RFO concentrations is desired to improve lentil quality and consumption. To explore the possibility to develop lentil cultivars for low-RFO concentration, heritability of RFO trait and influence of environmental conditions on RFO must be known. In addition, RFO biosynthesis and accumulation in lentil seeds must be understood. However, very limited information is available on the above mentioned aspects of RFO in general and in lentil in particular. Therefore, the objectives of this study were: (1) to evaluate natural variation in RFO concentration and composition in commonly grown lentil cultivars and to determine the correlation between RFO concentration and other important seed constituents, (2) to investigate heritability and effect of environment on concentration and composition of lentil seed soluble carbohydrates, (3) to assess natural variation and diversity in RFO concentration in the genus Lens, (4) and to evaluate the association between galactinol synthase activity and accumulation of RFO in lentil seeds. Analysis of 22 lentil genotypes revealed significant (P ≤ 0.05) variation in total starch, amyolse, protein, total RFO and seed weight and seed colour. Stachyose was the major RFO in all lentil genotypes followed by raffinose and verbascose. A significant (P ≤ 0.05) inverse correlation was found between RFO and amylose concentration (r = -0.34); whereas RFO concentration and thousand seed weight correlated positively (r = 0.35). The analyses of variance of eleven cultivars grown at ten different environments showed that cultivar, environment and their interaction had significant effects on sugar concentration in lentil seeds. The high broad sense heritability of RFO (h²= 0.85) indicated that RFO concentration in lentil seeds is highly heritable and thus amenable to genetic improvement. An extensive evaluation of domesticated and wild species and subspecies of the genus Lens revealed significant (P ≤ 0.05) variation and diversity in RFO concentration and composition of individual oligosaccharides. Higher Shannon-Weaver diversity indices (SDI) for total RFO, raffinose and verbascose traits were observed in wild lentils compared to domesticated genotypes. Lens ervoides genotypes and some wild genotypes contained almost half the RFO concentration of cultivated lentils and therefore, wild genotypes may be useful for developing low-RFO lines. Higher verbascose and lower stachyose concentration was found in Lens ervoides genotypes, whereas higher raffinose and lower verbascose concentration is found in Lens nigricans genotypes. Study of galactinol synthase activity in developing seeds with varying RFO concentration showed no clear association between galactinol synthase activity and RFO concentration. The sucrose and galactinol concentration of developing seeds were also not associated with total RFO concentration of lentil seeds. This finding suggests a non-regulatory role of galactinol synthase in RFO biosynthetic pathway in lentil seeds. Together, all these findings are not only significant to devise strategies to develop lentil cultivars with reduced RFO concentration but also for understanding RFO biosynthesis in lentil seeds.



Lentil quality, Heritability, Galactinol, Variation, Raffinose, Stachyose, RFO diversity, Verbascose



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Plant Sciences


Plant Sciences


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