Oleosin genes in maize kernels having diverse oil contents are constitutively expressed independent of oil contents. Size and shape of intracellular oil bodies are determined by the oleosins/oils ratio

Planta. 1996;199(1):158-65. doi: 10.1007/BF00196892.


In seeds, the subcellular storage oil bodies have a matrix of oils (triacylglycerols) surrounded by a layer of phospholipids embedded with abundant structural proteins called oleosins. We used two maize (Zea mays L.) strains having diverse kernel (seed) oil contents to study the effects of varying the oil and oleosin contents on the structure of the oil bodies. Illinois High Oils (IHO, 15% w/w oils) and Illinois Low Oils (ILO, 0.5%) maize kernels were the products of breeding for diverse oil contents for about 100 generations. In both maize strains, although the genes for oil synthesis had apparently been modified drastically, the genes encoding oleosins appeared to be unaltered, as revealed by Southern blot analyses of the three oleosin genes and sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis with immunoblotting of the oleosins. In addition, both strains contained the same three oleosin isoforms of a defined proportion, and both accumulated oils and oleosins coordinately. Oleosins in both strains were restricted to the oil bodies, as shown by analyses of the various subcellular fractions separated by sucrose-density-gradient centrifugation. Electron microscopy of the embryos and the isolated organelles revealed that the oil bodies in IHO were larger and had a spherical shape, whereas those in ILO were smaller and had irregular shapes. We conclude that in seeds, oleosin genes are expressed independent of the oil contents, and the size and shape of the oil bodies are dictated by the ratio of oils to oleosins synthesized during seed maturation. The extensive breeding for diverse oil contents has not altered the apparent mechanism of oil-body synthesis and the occurrence of hetero-dimer or -multimer of oleosin isoforms on the oil bodies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Breeding
  • Gene Dosage
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Genes, Plant
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plant Oils / metabolism*
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Seeds / metabolism
  • Subcellular Fractions
  • Zea mays / genetics*
  • Zea mays / metabolism


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Plant Oils
  • Plant Proteins
  • oleosin protein, Zea mays

Associated data

  • GENBANK/J05212
  • GENBANK/U13701