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Expression of a cDNA encoding palmitoyl-acyl carrier protein desaturase from cat's claw (Doxantha unguis-cati L.) in Arabidopsis thaliana and Brassica napus leads to accumulation of unusual unsaturated fatty acids and increased stearic acid content in the seed oil



A cDNA encoding palmitoyl-acyl carrier protein (ACP)-desaturase from cat's claw (Doxantha unguis-cati L.) was expressed in Arabidopsis thaliana and Brassica napus L. with the goal of decreasing the saturated fatty acid (FA) content of the seed oil. In general, transformation of Arabidopsis resulted in a greater change in the FA composition of the seed oil than for B. napus. An increase in palmitoleic acid (16:1cisΔ9) was obtained in transgenic lines, suggesting that the 16:0-ACP-desaturase cDNA was expressed in the manner originally intended. Other effects on lipid metabolism, however, were observed in the seed of transgenic plants. In Arabidopsis, there was a large increase in the proportions of cis-vaccenic acid (18:1cisΔ11) and cis-13-eicosenoic acid (20:1cisΔ13), possibly generated through elongation of 16:1cisΔ9. Elongation of 18:1cisΔ11 to 20:1cisΔ13, however, was not observed in B. napus indicating that certain aspects of lipid metabolism in the model plant, Arabidopsis, may not apply to B. napus. As well, the appearance of 18:1cisΔ11 was accompanied by a decrease in the proportion of oleic acid (18:1cisΔ9). Although the introduced ACP-desaturase resulted in synthesis of some unsaturated FAs, the overall saturated FA content was maintained at similar levels to the control or was enhanced. Increased levels of saturation were mainly associated with an increase in stearic acid, which unlike 16:0, is considered non-atherogenic. The results suggest that a mechanism exists further downstream in oil biosynthesis to counteract the decrease in saturation brought about by the 16:0-ACP-desaturase action.