Metabolic engineering of fatty acid biosynthesis in plants

Metab Eng. 2002 Jan;4(1):12-21. doi: 10.1006/mben.2001.0204.


Fatty acids are the most abundant form of reduced carbon chains available from nature and have diverse uses ranging from food to industrial feedstocks. Plants represent a significant renewable source of fatty acids because many species accumulate them in the form of triacylglycerol as major storage components in seeds. With the advent of plant transformation technology, metabolic engineering of oilseed fatty acids has become possible and transgenic plant oils represent some of the first successes in design of modified plant products. Directed gene down-regulation strategies have enabled the specific tailoring of common fatty acids in several oilseed crops. In addition, transfer of novel fatty acid biosynthetic genes from noncommercial plants has allowed the production of novel oil compositions in oilseed crops. These and future endeavors aim to produce seeds higher in oil content as well as new oils that are more stable, are healthier for humans, and can serve as a renewable source of industrial commodities. Large-scale new industrial uses of engineered plant oils are on the horizon but will require a better understanding of factors that limit the accumulation of unusual fatty acid structures in seeds.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Crops, Agricultural / chemistry
  • Crops, Agricultural / genetics
  • Crops, Agricultural / metabolism
  • Down-Regulation
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Fatty Acids / biosynthesis*
  • Fatty Acids / chemistry
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Genes, Plant
  • Plant Oils / chemistry
  • Plant Oils / metabolism*
  • Plants / genetics
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Protein Engineering*
  • Seeds / metabolism
  • Triglycerides / biosynthesis
  • Triglycerides / chemistry
  • Waxes / chemistry
  • Waxes / metabolism


  • Fatty Acids
  • Plant Oils
  • Triglycerides
  • Waxes