Metabolic engineering Camelina sativa with fish oil-like levels of DHA

PLoS One. 2014 Jan 21;9(1):e85061. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085061. eCollection 2014.


Background: Omega-3 long-chain (≥C20) polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω3 LC-PUFA) such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are critical for human health and development [corrected].. Numerous studies have indicated that deficiencies in these fatty acids can increase the risk or severity of cardiovascular, inflammatory and other diseases or disorders. EPA and DHA are predominantly sourced from marine fish although the primary producers are microalgae. Much work has been done to engineer a sustainable land-based source of EPA and DHA to reduce pressure on fish stocks in meeting future demand, with previous studies describing the production of fish oil-like levels of DHA in the model plant species, Arabidopsis thaliana.

Principal findings: In this study we describe the production of fish oil-like levels (>12%) of DHA in the oilseed crop species Camelina sativa achieving a high ω3/ω6 ratio. The construct previously transformed in Arabidopsis as well as two modified construct versions designed to increase DHA production were used. DHA was found to be stable to at least the T5 generation and the EPA and DHA were found to be predominantly at the sn-1,3 positions of triacylglycerols. Transgenic and parental lines did not have different germination or seedling establishment rates.

Conclusions: DHA can be produced at fish oil-like levels in industrially-relevant oilseed crop species using multi-gene construct designs which are stable over multiple generations. This study has implications for the future of sustainable EPA and DHA production from land-based sources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agrobacterium tumefaciens / genetics
  • Animals
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Brassicaceae / genetics
  • Brassicaceae / metabolism*
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / biosynthesis*
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / chemistry
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / isolation & purification
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / biosynthesis*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / chemistry
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / isolation & purification
  • Fishes
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Germination / physiology
  • Metabolic Engineering*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Seedlings / physiology


  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid
  • docosapentaenoic acid

Grants and funding

This research was funded by CSIRO Food Futures Flagship, Nuseed Pty Ltd and the Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, or preparation of the manuscript. The authors were granted permission to publish the manuscript by the funders.