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Plant Physiol. 2000 Feb;122(2):389-402.

Toward a functional catalog of the plant genome. A survey of genes for lipid biosynthesis.

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  • 1Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA.


Public databases now include vast amounts of recently acquired DNA sequences that are only partially annotated and, furthermore, are often annotated by automated methods that are subject to errors. Maximum information value of these databases can be derived only by further detailed analyses that frequently require careful examination of records in the context of biological functions. In this study we present an example of such an analysis focused on plant glycerolipid synthesis. Public databases were searched for sequences corresponding to 65 plant polypeptides involved in lipid metabolism. Comprehensive search results and analysis of genes, cDNAs and expressed sequence tags (ESTs) are available online ( Multiple alignments provided a method to estimate the number of genes in gene families. Further analysis of sequences allowed us to tentatively identify several previously undescribed genes in Arabidopsis. For example, two genomic sequences were identified as candidates for the palmitate-specific monogalactosyldiacylglycerol desaturase (FAD5). A candidate genomic sequence for 3-ketoacyl-acyl-carrier protein (ACP) synthase involved in mitochondrial fatty acid biosynthesis was also identified. Biotin carboxyl carrier protein (BCCP) in Arabidopsis is encoded by at least two genes, but the most abundant BCCP transcript so far has not been characterized. The large number (>165,000) of plant ESTs also provides an opportunity to perform "digital northern" comparisons of gene expression levels across many genes. EST abundance in general correlated with biochemical and flux characteristics of the enzymes in Arabidopsis leaf tissue. In a few cases, statistically significant differences in EST abundance levels were observed for enzymes that catalyze similar reactions in fatty acid metabolism. For example, ESTs for the FatB acyl-ACP thioesterase occur 21 times compared with 7 times for FatA acyl-ACP thioesterase, although flux through the FatA reaction is several times higher than through FatB. Such comparisons may provide initial clues toward previously undescribed regulatory phenomena. The abundance of ESTs for ACP compared with that of stearoyl-ACP desaturase and FatB acyl-ACP thioesterase suggests that concentrations of some enzymes of fatty acid synthesis may be higher than their acyl-ACP substrates.

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