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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Maricopa, Arizona » U.S. Arid Land Agricultural Research Center » Plant Physiology and Genetics Research » Research » Research Project #426691

Research Project: Engineering Vegetative Biomass for Accumulation of Oil

Location: Plant Physiology and Genetics Research

Project Number: 2020-21000-012-04-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2014
End Date: Jul 31, 2016

The objective of the research is to develop and test molecular tools capable of modifying the lipid droplet compartment in plant cells, with the end-goal of increasing the amount of oil produced in plants. Additional Objective Added 7/9/15: Extending SCA (Agreement number 58-5347-4-015, Accession number 426691) by one year to conduct research on the relationship between oil production in plant leaves and the response of plants to heat stress.

There are two main approaches that will be pursued to achieve the objective. In the first, proteins associated with the lipid droplet surface in plant cells will be identified. The function of these proteins will be studied using a variety of methods including gene knockouts or knockdowns, over-expression in transgenic plants, and identification of protein binding partners. Experiments will be conducted using both plant and yeast model systems. Analytical tools include protein expression analysis, measurement of enzyme activity and/or functionality, and effects on lipid content and composition. In a second line of investigation, proteins known to be involved in lipid droplet regulation in mammalian cells, with no obvious homologs in plants, will be ectopically expressed in plants to evaluate effects on lipid content and composition. The rationale for this approach is to leverage the huge amount of information regarding obesity in mammals to probe the similarities and/or differences in lipid regulation in plants. Mammalian proteins will be expressed in transgenic model plants and changes in lipid content and composition, including in both leaves and seeds, will be evaluated. Collectively, these approaches will significantly enhance our understanding of how oils are produced and regulated in plant cells. Additional Approach Added 7/9/15: A variety of plant lines that harbor changes in lipid metabolism and/or lipid signaling pathways will be subjected to abiotic stress, including high temperature, then changes in gene expression, protein profiles, lipid production, and physiological adaptation will be measured. Cell biology experiments will also be conducted to characterize changes in the number, size, and or distribution of oil-storing organelles during high temperature response.