Specialized Lysophosphatidic Acid Acyltransferases Contribute to Unusual Fatty Acid Accumulation in Exotic Euphorbiaceae Seed Oils

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Chemistry and Biochemistry


Mathematics and Natural Sciences


In vivo and in vitro analyses of Euphorbiaceae species’ triacylglycerol assembly enzymes substrate selectivity are consistent with the co-evolution of seed-specific unusual fatty acid production and suggest that many of these genes will be useful for biotechnological production of designer oils.

Many exotic Euphorbiaceae species, including tung tree (Vernicia fordii), castor bean (Ricinus communis), Bernardia pulchella, and Euphorbia lagascae, accumulate unusual fatty acids in their seed oils, many of which have valuable properties for the chemical industry. However, various adverse plant characteristics including low seed yields, production of toxic compounds, limited growth range, and poor resistance to abiotic stresses have limited full agronomic exploitation of these plants. Biotechnological production of these unusual fatty acids (UFA) in high yielding non-food oil crops would provide new robust sources for these valuable bio-chemicals. Previous research has shown that expression of the primary UFA biosynthetic gene alone is not enough for high-level accumulation in transgenic seed oils; other genes must be included to drive selective UFA incorporation into oils. Here, we use a series of in planta molecular genetic studies and in vitro biochemical measurements to demonstrate that lysophosphatidic acid acyltransferases from two Euphorbiaceae species have high selectivity for incorporation of their respective unusual fatty acids into the phosphatidic acid intermediate of oil biosynthesis. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that unusual fatty acid accumulation arose in part via co-evolution of multiple oil biosynthesis and assembly enzymes that cooperate to enhance selective fatty acid incorporation into seed oils over that of the common fatty acids found in membrane lipids.

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