BI O TECH NO LO GY
boost oil content
in plant leaves
Altering plant genomes to increase oil levels
in plants could lead to the creation of new
biofuel crops, but the trick is figuring out
how to tinker with plant genetics to boost
oil content without introducing defects.
Now, a team of researchers from Brookhaven
National Laboratory (BNL; Upton, New
York, USA) and Michigan State University (East Lansing, USA) has found a way
to boost triacylglyceride (TAG) accumulation up to 9% in the leaves of Arabidopsis
thaliana plants without detrimental effects
on plant health. The findings are published
in the journal The Plant Cell ( http://dx.doi.
org/10.1105/tpc. 114.130377, 2014).
“Unlike the oil-rich seeds of oil crops,
such as canola and sunflower, plant leaves
typically accumulate very low levels of oil,
which is predominantly composed of TAG,”
In previous studies, researchers have
attempted to boost oil yields by blocking the
action of enzymes that transport fatty acids
(FAs) from the cell’s cytoplasm to the per-
oxisome, the cellular machinery responsible
for degrading the fatty acids via oxidation.
Although this approach worked to a degree,
it has typically come with negative effects on
plant health, lead author Changcheng Xu said
in a news release.
Xu’s team decided to go back one step
in the metabolic process and knock out the
gene SDP1, which codes for an enzyme
responsible for breaking down lipid droplets in the cytoplasm to release FAs. Using
this approach, “we get a large amount of oil
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