Plant aerial organs are covered by cuticular waxes, which form a hydrophobic crystal layer that mainly serves as a waterproof barrier. Cuticular wax is a complex mixture of very long chain lipids deriving from fatty acids, predominantly of chain lengths from 26 to 34 carbons, which result from acyl-CoA elongase activity. The biochemical mechanism of elongation is well characterized; however, little is known about the specific proteins involved in the elongation of compounds with more than 26 carbons available as precursors of wax synthesis. In this context, we characterized the three Arabidopsis genes of the CER2-like family: CER2, CER26 and CER26-like . Expression pattern analysis showed that the three genes are differentially expressed in an organ- and tissue-specific manner. Using individual T-DNA insertion mutants, together with a cer2 cer26 double mutant, we characterized the specific impact of the inactivation of the different genes on cuticular waxes. In particular, whereas the cer2 mutation impaired the production of wax components longer than 28 carbons, the cer26 mutant was found to be affected in the production of wax components longer than 30 carbons. The analysis of the acyl-CoA pool in the respective transgenic lines confirmed that inactivation of both genes specifically affects the fatty acid elongation process beyond 26 carbons. Furthermore, ectopic expression of CER26 in transgenic plants demonstrates that CER26 facilitates the elongation of the very long chain fatty acids of 30 carbons or more, with high tissular and substrate specificity.
© 2012 The Authors The Plant Journal © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.