Top-Down (Metabolic) Control Analysis (TDCA) was used to examine, quantitatively, lipid biosynthesis in tissue cultures from two commercially important oil crops, olive (Olea europaea L.) and oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.). A conceptually simplified system was defined comprising two blocks of reactions: fatty acid synthesis (Block A) and lipid assembly (Block B), which produced and consumed, respectively, a common and unique system intermediate, cytosolic acyl-CoA. We manipulated the steady-state levels of the system intermediate by adding exogenous oleic acid and, using two independent assays, measured the effect of the addition on the system fluxes (J(A) and J(B)). These were the rate of incorporation of radioactivity: (i) through Block A from [1-(14)C]acetate into fatty acids and (ii) via Block B from [U-(14)C]glycerol into complex lipids respectively. The data showed that fatty acid formation (Block A) exerted higher control than lipid assembly (Block B) in both tissues with the following group flux control coefficients (C):(i) Oil palm: *C(J(TL))(BlkA)=0.64+/-0.05 and *C(J(TL))(BlkB)=0.36+/-0.05(ii) Olive: *C(J(TL))(BlkA)=0.57+/-0.10 and *C(J(TL))(BlkB)=0.43+/-0.10where *C indicates the group flux control coefficient over the lipid biosynthesis flux (J(TL)) and the subscripts BlkA and BlkB refer to defined blocks of the system, Block A and Block B. Nevertheless, because both parts of the lipid biosynthetic pathway exert significant flux control, we suggest strongly that manipulation of single enzyme steps will not affect product yield appreciably. The present study represents the first use of TDCA to examine the overall lipid biosynthetic pathway in any tissue, and its findings are of immediate academic and economic relevance to the yield and nutritional quality of oil crops.