APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:
- Biodiesel production
- Substantial increase in seed oil yield
- No adverse effects on plant growth and development
Researchers at Berkeley Lab’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have employed an artificial positive feedback loop (APFL) to increase seed oil through the overexpression of a master regulating transcription factor for oil biosynthesis. The Berkeley Lab technology offers promise to improve seed oil yield to meet the growing demand for vegetable oils for food and biodiesel production.
The researchers obtained a 20% increase in oil content in Arabidopsis and a 26% increase in Camelina seed oil content, compared to a 10% maximum increase in earlier studies. The JBEI technology also allows for increased protein production, starch production, and other storage polysaccharides such as beta-glucan and mannan. The technology can be used in combination with other engineering constructs to increase the accumulation of oils.
Many plants accumulate oils –triacylglycerols (TAGs) – in the seeds, and such seed oils have many important uses. The global production of vegetable oils is more than 190 million tons per year, and an increasing fraction of vegetable oils is being used for the production of biodiesel. Since it is known that lipid biosynthesis and accumulation in seeds and other tissues occurs in specific cell types and is regulated by transcription factors, the transcription factors can be used to create an APFL to increase the accumulation of lipids in a desired tissue such as seed.
Earlier approaches to increasing oil content have led to adverse effects on the growth or development of plants. The JBEI technology overcomes this disadvantage because the master regulator can be expressed to very high levels but only in the cell types where it was expressed in the first place.
DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Proven principle
STATUS: Patent pending. Available for licensing or collaborative research.