Synthesis of medium-chain-length polyhydroxyalkanoates in arabidopsis thaliana using intermediates of peroxisomal fatty acid beta-oxidation

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Nov 10;95(23):13397-402. doi: 10.1073/pnas.95.23.13397.


Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) is a family of polymers composed primarily of R-3-hydroxyalkanoic acids. These polymers have properties of biodegradable thermoplastics and elastomers. Medium-chain-length PHAs (MCL-PHAs) are synthesized in bacteria by using intermediates of the beta-oxidation of alkanoic acids. To assess the feasibility of producing MCL-PHAs in plants, Arabidopsis thaliana was transformed with the PhaC1 synthase from Pseudomonas aeruginosa modified for peroxisome targeting by addition of the carboxyl 34 amino acids from the Brassica napus isocitrate lyase. Immunocytochemistry demonstrated that the modified PHA synthase was appropriately targeted to leaf-type peroxisomes in light-grown plants and glyoxysomes in dark-grown plants. Plants expressing the PHA synthase accumulated electron-lucent inclusions in the glyoxysomes and leaf-type peroxisomes, as well as in the vacuole. These inclusions were similar to bacterial PHA inclusions. Analysis of plant extracts by GC and mass spectrometry demonstrated the presence of MCL-PHA in transgenic plants to approximately 4 mg per g of dry weight. The plant PHA contained saturated and unsaturated 3-hydroxyalkanoic acids ranging from six to 16 carbons with 41% of the monomers being 3-hydroxyoctanoic acid and 3-hydroxyoctenoic acid. These results indicate that the beta-oxidation of plant fatty acids can generate a broad range of R-3-hydroxyacyl-CoA intermediates that can be used to synthesize MCL-PHAs.