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Plant Cell. 1995 Mar;7(3):359-71.

Palmitoyl-acyl carrier protein (ACP) thioesterase and the evolutionary origin of plant acyl-ACP thioesterases.

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  • 1Calgene, Inc., Davis, California 95616.


Acyl-acyl carrier protein (ACP) thioesterases play an essential role in chain termination during de novo fatty acid synthesis and in the channeling of carbon flux between the two lipid biosynthesis pathways in plants. We have discovered that there are two distinct but related thioesterase gene classes in higher plants, termed FatA and FatB, whose evolutionary divergence appears to be ancient. FatA encodes the already described 18:1-ACP thioesterase. In contrast, FatB representatives encode thioesterases preferring acyl-ACPs having saturated acyl groups. We unexpectedly obtained a 16:0-ACP thioesterase cDNA from Cuphea hookeriana seed, which accumulate predominantly 8:0 and 10:0. The 16:0 thioesterase transcripts were found in non-seed tissues, and expression in transgenic Brassica napus led to the production of a 16:0-rich oil. We present evidence that this type of FatB gene is ancient and ubiquitous in plants and that specialized plant medium-chain thioesterases have evolved independently from such enzymes several times during angiosperm evolution. Also, the ubiquitous 18:1-ACP thioesterase appears to be a derivative of a 16:0 thioesterase.

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