Plant surface lipid biosynthetic pathways and their utility for metabolic engineering of waxes and hydrocarbon biofuels

Plant J. 2008 May;54(4):670-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2008.03467.x.


Due to their unique physical properties, waxes are high-value materials that are used in a variety of industrial applications. They are generated by chemical synthesis, extracted from fossil sources, or harvested from a small number of plant and animal species. As a result, the diversity of chemical structures in commercial waxes is low and so are their yields. These limitations can be overcome by engineering of wax biosynthetic pathways in the seeds of high-yielding oil crops to produce designer waxes for specific industrial end uses. In this review, we first summarize the current knowledge regarding the genes and enzymes generating the chemical diversity of cuticular waxes that accumulate at the surfaces of primary plant organs. We then consider the potential of cuticle biosynthetic genes for biotechnological wax production, focusing on selected examples of wax ester chain lengths and isomers. Finally, we discuss the genes/enzymes of cuticular alkane biosynthesis and their potential in future metabolic engineering of plants for the production of renewable hydrocarbon fuels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biosynthetic Pathways*
  • Fatty Acids / chemistry
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Hydrocarbons / chemistry
  • Hydrocarbons / metabolism*
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Molecular Structure
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Waxes / chemistry
  • Waxes / metabolism*


  • Fatty Acids
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Waxes