Increase in nervonic acid content in transformed yeast and transgenic plants by introduction of a Lunaria annua L. 3-ketoacyl-CoA synthase (KCS) gene

Plant Mol Biol. 2009 Mar;69(5):565-75. doi: 10.1007/s11103-008-9439-9. Epub 2008 Dec 11.


Nervonic acid is a Very Long-Chain Monounsaturated Fatty Acid (VLCMFA), 24:1 Delta15 (cis-tetracos-15-enoic acid) found in the seed oils of Lunaria annua, borage, hemp, Acer (Purpleblow maple) and Tropaeolum speciosum (Flame flower). However, of these, only the "money plant" (Lunaria annua L.) has been studied and grown sparingly for future development as a niche crop and the outlook has been disappointing. Therefore, our goal was to isolate and characterize strategic new genes for high nervonic acid production in Brassica oilseed crops. To this end, we have isolated a VLCMFA-utilizing 3-Keto-Acyl-CoA Synthase (KCS; fatty acid elongase; EC gene from Lunaria annua and functionally expressed it in yeast, with the recombinant KCS protein able to catalyze the synthesis of several VLCMFAs, including nervonic acid. Seed-specific expression of the Lunaria KCS in Arabidopsis resulted in a 30-fold increase in nervonic acid proportions in seed oils, compared to the very low quantities found in the wild-type. Similar transgenic experiments using B. carinata as the host resulted in a 7-10 fold increase in seed oil nervonic acid proportions. KCS enzyme activity assays indicated that upon using (14)C-22:1-CoA as substrate, the KCS activity from developing seeds of transgenic B. carinata was 20-30-fold higher than the low erucoyl-elongation activity exhibited by wild type control plants. There was a very good correlation between the Lun KCS transcript intensity and the resultant 22:1-CoA KCS activity in developing seed. The highest nervonic acid level in transgenic B. carinata expressing the Lunaria KCS reached 30%, compared to 2.8% in wild type plant. In addition, the erucic acid proportions in these transgenic lines were considerably lower than that found in native Lunaria oil. These results show the functional utility of the Lunaria KCS in engineering new sources of high nervonate/reduced erucic oils in the Brassicaceae.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3-Oxoacyl-(Acyl-Carrier-Protein) Synthase / genetics
  • 3-Oxoacyl-(Acyl-Carrier-Protein) Synthase / metabolism
  • Acetyltransferases / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Brassicaceae / enzymology*
  • Brassicaceae / genetics*
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Esters / analysis
  • Fatty Acid Elongases
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Genes, Plant*
  • Plant Oils / chemistry
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism*
  • Seeds / enzymology
  • Seeds / genetics
  • Seeds / growth & development
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Transformation, Genetic*


  • Esters
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated
  • Plant Oils
  • RNA, Messenger
  • nervonic acid
  • Acetyltransferases
  • Fatty Acid Elongases
  • 3-Oxoacyl-(Acyl-Carrier-Protein) Synthase