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Monsanto Corporation, Calgene Campus, 1920 Fifth Street, Davis, California 95691; e-mail:, Dupont Nutrition and Health, Experimental Station, P. O. Box 80402, Wilmington, Delaware 19880-0402; e-mail:


In many plants lipids represent up to 80% of dry weight of storage tissues. In seeds, lipids accumulate as triacylglycerols (TAGs), which are formed by an extension of the membrane-lipid biosynthetic pathway common to all plant tissues. In contrast to the conserved fatty acid (FA) composition of membrane lipids, the observed divergence in seed oil acyl chains among different species is very high. The acyl groups of seed TAGs can vary in their chain length (from 8 to 24) as well as in their degree of unsaturation. In addition to methylene-interrupted double bonds, many seeds contain TAGs that have unusual functional groups in their FAs, such as hydroxyl, oxirane, or acetylene groups. All of the major steps in the biosynthetic pathway to TAG are now known and sequence information for genes encoding most of the enzymes involved is available. Here we present the current knowledge of the metabolic mechanisms involved in the divergence from the membrane-lipid biosynthetic pathway during storage lipid formation.

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