Wax esters of different compositions produced via engineering of leaf chloroplast metabolism in Nicotiana benthamiana

Metab Eng. 2014 Sep;25:103-12. doi: 10.1016/j.ymben.2014.07.001. Epub 2014 Jul 15.


In a future bio-based economy, renewable sources for lipid compounds at attractive cost are needed for applications where today petrochemical derivatives are dominating. Wax esters and fatty alcohols provide diverse industrial uses, such as in lubricant and surfactant production. In this study, chloroplast metabolism was engineered to divert intermediates from de novo fatty acid biosynthesis to wax ester synthesis. To accomplish this, chloroplast targeted fatty acyl reductases (FAR) and wax ester synthases (WS) were transiently expressed in Nicotiana benthamiana leaves. Wax esters of different qualities and quantities were produced providing insights to the properties and interaction of the individual enzymes used. In particular, a phytyl ester synthase was found to be a premium candidate for medium chain wax ester synthesis. Catalytic activities of FAR and WS were also expressed as a fusion protein and determined functionally equivalent to the expression of individual enzymes for wax ester synthesis in chloroplasts.

Keywords: Chloroplast; Fatty acyl reductase; Fatty alcohol; Nicotiana benthamiana; Wax ester; Wax ester synthase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aldehyde Oxidoreductases / genetics
  • Aldehyde Oxidoreductases / metabolism*
  • Chloroplasts / physiology*
  • Esters
  • Metabolic Engineering / methods*
  • Plant Leaves / physiology*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / physiology
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases / genetics
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases / metabolism*
  • Tobacco / physiology*
  • Waxes / metabolism*


  • Esters
  • Waxes
  • Aldehyde Oxidoreductases
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases