Exploiting Natural Variation to Uncover an Alkene Biosynthetic Enzyme in Poplar

Alkenes are linear hydrocarbons with one or more double bonds. Despite their potential as biofuels and precursors for specialty chemicals, the underlying biochemistry and genetics of alkene biosynthesis in plants remain elusive. In this study, the authors report on a screen of natural accessions of poplar (Populus trichocarpa) revealing that the leaf cuticular waxes are predominantly composed of alkanes and alkenes. Interestingly, the accumulation of alkenes increases with leaf development, is limited to the abaxial side of the leaf, and is impaired in a few accessions. Among other genes, a ?-ketoacyl CoA synthase gene (PotriKCS1) was downregulated in leaves from non-alkene-producing accessions. The authors demonstrated biochemically that PotriKCS1 elongates monounsaturated fatty acids and is responsible for the recruitment of unsaturated substrates to the cuticular wax. Moreover, significant associations were found between the presence of alkenes and tree growth and resistance to leaf spot. These findings highlight the crucial role of cuticular waxes as the first point of contact with the environment, and they provide a foundation for engineering long-chain monounsaturated oils in other species.

Authors: Gonzales-Vigil E, Hefer CA, von Loessl ME, La Mantia J, Mansfield SD. ; Full Source: Plant Cell. 2017 Jul 20. pii: tpc.00338.2017. doi: 10.1105/tpc.17.00338. [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Epub ahead of print][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]