Expression of a cyanobacterial delta 6-desaturase gene results in gamma-linolenic acid production in transgenic plants

Nat Biotechnol. 1996 May;14(5):639-42. doi: 10.1038/nbt0596-639.


Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a nutritionally important fatty acid in human and animal diets, is not produced in oil seed crops. Many oil seed plants, however, produce significant quantities of linoleic acid, a fatty acid that could be converted to GLA by the enzyme delta 6-desaturase if it were present. As a first step to producing GLA in oil seed crops, we have cloned a cyanobacterial delta 6-desaturase gene. Expression of this gene in transgenic tobacco resulted in GLA accumulation. Octadecatetraenoic acid, a highly unsaturated, industrially important fatty acid, was also found in transgenic tobacco plants expressing the cyanobacterial delta 6-desaturase. This is the first example of engineering the production of 'novel' polyunsaturated fatty acids in transgenic plants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Biotechnology
  • Cyanobacteria / enzymology*
  • Cyanobacteria / genetics*
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Fatty Acid Desaturases / genetics*
  • Fatty Acid Desaturases / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / biosynthesis
  • Gene Expression
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Humans
  • Linoleoyl-CoA Desaturase
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Plants, Toxic*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Tobacco / genetics*
  • Tobacco / metabolism*
  • Transformation, Genetic
  • gamma-Linolenic Acid / biosynthesis*


  • DNA Primers
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • gamma-Linolenic Acid
  • Fatty Acid Desaturases
  • Linoleoyl-CoA Desaturase
  • parinaric acid