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Prog Lipid Res. 2002 Mar;41(2):131-55.

Polyhydroxyalknoate synthesis in plants as a tool for biotechnology and basic studies of lipid metabolism.

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Institut d'Ecologie-Laboratoire de Biotechnologie Végétale, Bâtiment de Biologie, Université de Lausanne, CH-1015, Lausanne, Switzerland.


Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are polyesters of hydroxyacids naturally synthesized in bacteria as a carbon reserve. PHAs have properties of biodegradable thermoplastics and elastomers and their synthesis in crop plants is seen as an attractive system for the sustained production of large amounts of polymers at low cost. A variety of PHAs having different physical properties have now been synthesized in a number of transgenic plants, including Arabidopsis thaliana, rape and corn. This has been accomplished through the creation of novel metabolic pathways either in the cytoplasm, plastid or peroxisome of plant cells. Beyond its impact in biotechnology, PHA production in plants can also be used to study some fundamental aspects of plant metabolism. Synthesis of PHA can be used both as an indicator and a modulator of the carbon flux to pathways competing for common substrates, such as acetyl-coenzyme A in fatty acid biosynthesis or 3-hydroxyacyl-coenzyme A in fatty acid degradation. Synthesis of PHAs in plant peroxisome has been used to demonstrate changes in the flux of fatty acids to the beta-oxidation cycle in transgenic plants and mutants affected in lipid biosynthesis, as well as to study the pathway of degradation of unusual fatty acids.

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