Plant surface lipid biosynthetic pathways and their utility for metabolic engineering of waxes and hydrocarbon biofuels

Authors

  • Reinhard Jetter,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada, and
    2. Department of Chemistry, University of British Columbia, 6174 University Boulevard, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada
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  • Ljerka Kunst

    1. Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada, and
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*(fax +1 604 822 6089; e-mail jetter@interchange.ubc.ca).

Summary

Due to their unique physical properties, waxes are high-value materials that are used in a variety of industrial applications. They are generated by chemical synthesis, extracted from fossil sources, or harvested from a small number of plant and animal species. As a result, the diversity of chemical structures in commercial waxes is low and so are their yields. These limitations can be overcome by engineering of wax biosynthetic pathways in the seeds of high-yielding oil crops to produce designer waxes for specific industrial end uses. In this review, we first summarize the current knowledge regarding the genes and enzymes generating the chemical diversity of cuticular waxes that accumulate at the surfaces of primary plant organs. We then consider the potential of cuticle biosynthetic genes for biotechnological wax production, focusing on selected examples of wax ester chain lengths and isomers. Finally, we discuss the genes/enzymes of cuticular alkane biosynthesis and their potential in future metabolic engineering of plants for the production of renewable hydrocarbon fuels.

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