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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Apr 15;94(8):4211-6.

Expression of a borage desaturase cDNA containing an N-terminal cytochrome b5 domain results in the accumulation of high levels of delta6-desaturated fatty acids in transgenic tobacco.

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  • 1Institute of Arable Crops Research-Long Ashton Research Station, University of Bristol, United Kingdom.


gamma-Linolenic acid (GLA; C18:3 delta(6,9,12)) is a component of the seed oils of evening primrose (Oenothera spp.), borage (Borago officinalis L.), and some other plants. It is widely used as a dietary supplement and for treatment of various medical conditions. GLA is synthesized by a delta6-fatty acid desaturase using linoleic acid (C18:2 delta(9,12)) as a substrate. To enable the production of GLA in conventional oilseeds, we have isolated a cDNA encoding the delta6-fatty acid desaturase from developing seeds of borage and confirmed its function by expression in transgenic tobacco plants. Analysis of leaf lipids from a transformed plant demonstrated the accumulation of GLA and octadecatetraenoic acid (C18:4 delta(6,9,12,15)) to levels of 13.2% and 9.6% of the total fatty acids, respectively. The borage delta6-fatty acid desaturase differs from other desaturase enzymes, characterized from higher plants previously, by the presence of an N-terminal domain related to cytochrome b5.

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