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Planta. 2002 Aug;215(4):584-95. Epub 2002 Mar 27.

What limits production of unusual monoenoic fatty acids in transgenic plants?

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  • 1Department of Plant Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.


Unusual monounsaturated fatty acids are major constituents (greater than 80%) in seeds of Coriandrum sativum L. (coriander) and Thunbergia alata Bojer, as well as in glandular trichomes (greater than 80% derived products) of Pelargonium x hortorum (geranium). These diverged fatty acid structures are produced via distinct plastidial acyl-acyl carrier protein (ACP) desaturases. When expressed in Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh. under strong seed-specific promoters the unusual acyl-ACP desaturases resulted in accumulation of unusual monoene fatty acids at 1-15% of seed fatty acid mass. In this study, we have examined several factors that potentially limit higher production of unusual monoenes in transgenic oilseeds. (i) Immunoblots indicated that the introduced desaturases were expressed at levels equivalent to or higher than the endogenous delta9 18:0-ACP desaturase. However, the level of unusual fatty acid produced in transgenic plants was not correlated with the level of desaturase expression. (ii) The unusual desaturases were expressed in several backgrounds, including antisense 18:0-ACP desaturase plants, in fab1 mutants, and co-expressed with specialized ACP or ferredoxin isoforms. None of these experiments led to high production of expected products. (iii) No evidence was found for degradation of the unusual fatty acids during seed development. (iv) Petroselinic acid added to developing seeds was incorporated into triacylglycerol as readily as oleic acid, suggesting no major barriers to its metabolism by enzymes of glycerolipid assembly. (v) In vitro and in situ assay of acyl-ACP desaturases revealed a large discrepancy of activity when comparing unusual acyl-ACP desaturases with the endogenous delta9 18:0-ACP desaturase. The combined results, coupled with the sensitivity of acyl-ACP desaturase activity to centrifugation and low salt or detergent suggests low production of unusual monoenes in transgenic plants may be due to the lack of, or incorrect assemble of, a necessary multi-component enzyme association.

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