Plant Lipid Biochemistry

Plant lipid biochemistry is enjoying unprecedented growth as pressure looms for the global vegetable oil market to meet an ever increasing demand for both edible oils and sustainable substitutes for petrochemicals. Not only is there great interest in increasing vegetable oil yield and modifying the fatty composition for a widening array of specialty applications, but researchers are beginning to consider the potential for introducing oil-formation pathways into traditionally non-oleaginous tissues, such as leaves. The success of these modifications will largely depend on our ability to untangle the complex molecular events at the heart of plant lipid synthesis on both a genetic and biochemical level. The rise of functional genomics and associated resources has greatly enhanced our “big picture” view of plant lipid metabolism, but has at the same time reminded us of how much there is left to learn. The emergence of lipidomics promises to couple functional genomics and systems biology with cutting-edge lipid analytical techniques, bridging a vital gap between gene function and in vivo physiological outcomes.

The following topics are in preparation and are expected from August onwards-

  • Plant sphingolipids (Edgar B. Cahoon)
  • Plant fatty acid elongases (Joerg Bauer)
  • Metabolic engineering of plants to produce very-long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (Johnathan Napier)
  • Production of hydroxy oils in plants (Mark Smith and Thomas McKeon)
  • Plant wax biosynthesis (Owen Rowland and Ljerka Kunst)
  • Ecophysiology of plant surface lipids (Reinhard Jetter)

The converging of molecular genetics, cell biology, physiology, biotechnology, lipid analysis and bioinformatics means that, more than ever, plant lipid biochemistry is a truly multidisciplinary science. Sharing of information across disciplines is vital to ongoing progress in plant lipid biochemistry and biotechnology, and the Lipid Library and its Plant Lipid Biochemistry subsite are essential gathering places for such information exchange. Readers will find some basic information on lipid biochemistry in the Lipid Primer pages of this site.

Additional resources