• Open Access

Vernonia DGATs increase accumulation of epoxy fatty acids in oil


* Correspondence (Tel +1 859 257 5020 ext. 80760; fax +1 859 257 7874; e-mail dhild@uky.edu)


Vernolic acid (cis-12-epoxy-octadeca-cis-9-enoic acid) is valuable as a renewable chemical feedstock. This fatty acid can accumulate to high levels in the seed oil of some plant species such as Vernonia galamensis and Stokesia laevis which are unsuitable for large-scale production. A cost-effective alternative for production of epoxy fatty acids is to genetically engineer its biosynthesis in commercial oilseeds. An epoxygenase cDNA (SlEPX) responsible for vernolic acid synthesis and two acyl-CoA : diacylglycerol acyltransferase cDNAs (VgDGAT1 and VgDGAT2) catalysing triacylglycerol (TAG) formation were cloned from developing seeds of S. laevis and V. galamensis. Co-expression of SlEPX and VgDGAT1 or VgDGAT2 greatly increases accumulation of vernolic acid both in petunia leaves and soybean somatic embryos. Seed-specific expression of VgDGAT1 and VgDGAT2 in SlEPX mature soybean seeds results in vernolic acid levels of ∼15% and 26%. Both DGAT1 and DGAT2 increase epoxy fatty acid accumulation with DGAT2 having much greater impact.