Metabolic engineering of seeds can achieve levels of omega-7 fatty acids comparable with the highest levels found in natural plant sources

Plant Physiol. 2010 Dec;154(4):1897-904. doi: 10.1104/pp.110.165340. Epub 2010 Oct 13.


Plant oils containing ω-7 fatty acids (FAs; palmitoleic 16:1Δ(9) and cis-vaccenic 18:1Δ(11)) have potential as sustainable feedstocks for producing industrially important octene via metathesis chemistry. Engineering plants to produce seeds that accumulate high levels of any unusual FA has been an elusive goal. We achieved high levels of ω-7 FA accumulation by systematic metabolic engineering of Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). A plastidial 16:0-ACP desaturase has been engineered to convert 16:0 to 16:1Δ(9) with specificity >100-fold than that of naturally occurring paralogs, such as that from cat's claw vine (Doxantha unguis-cati). Expressing this engineered enzyme (Com25) in seeds increased ω-7 FA accumulation from <2% to 14%. Reducing competition for 16:0-ACP by down-regulating the β-ketoacyl-ACP synthase II 16:0 elongase further increased accumulation of ω-7 FA to 56%. The level of 16:0 exiting the plastid without desaturation also increased to 21%. Coexpression of a pair of fungal 16:0 desaturases in the cytosol reduced the 16:0 level to 11% and increased ω-7 FA to as much as 71%, equivalent to levels found in Doxantha seeds.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Fatty Acid Desaturases / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Plants / enzymology
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Seeds / metabolism*


  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acid Desaturases