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Nat Genet. 2008 Mar;40(3):367-72. doi: 10.1038/ng.85. Epub 2008 Feb 17.

A phenylalanine in DGAT is a key determinant of oil content and composition in maize.

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Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., A DuPont Company, 7300 NW 62nd Avenue, PO Box 1004, Johnston, Iowa 50131, USA.


Plant oil is an important renewable resource for biodiesel production and for dietary consumption by humans and livestock. Through genetic mapping of the oil trait in plants, studies have reported multiple quantitative trait loci (QTLs) with small effects, but the molecular basis of oil QTLs remains largely unknown. Here we show that a high-oil QTL (qHO6) affecting maize seed oil and oleic-acid contents encodes an acyl-CoA:diacylglycerol acyltransferase (DGAT1-2), which catalyzes the final step of oil synthesis. We further show that a phenylalanine insertion in DGAT1-2 at position 469 (F469) is responsible for the increased oil and oleic-acid contents. The DGAT1-2 allele with F469 is ancestral, whereas the allele without F469 is a more recent mutant selected by domestication or breeding. Ectopic expression of the high-oil DGAT1-2 allele increases oil and oleic-acid contents by up to 41% and 107%, respectively. This work provides insights into the molecular basis of natural variation of oil and oleic-acid contents in plants and highlights DGAT as a promising target for increasing oil and oleic-acid contents in other crops.

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