Brookhaven researchers discover why enhanced oil crops have lower yields

February 10, 2021 |

In New York state, hundreds of naturally occurring specialty fatty acids (building blocks of oils) have potential for use as raw materials for making lubricants, plastics, pharmaceuticals, and more–if they could be produced at large scale by crop plants. But attempts to put genes for making these specialty building blocks into crops have had the opposite effect: Seeds from plants with genes added to make specialty fatty acids accumulated dramatically less oil. No one knew why.

Now two teams of biochemists working on separate aspects of oil synthesis at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have converged to discover the mechanism behind the oil-production slowdown. As described in the journal Plant Physiology, they crossbred model plants and conducted detailed biochemical-genetic analyses to demonstrate a strategy for reversing the roadblock and ramping up production. The work paves the way for making at least one industrially important specialty fatty acid in plants–and may work for many others.

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Category: Research

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