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Keywords:

  • lipids;
  • plant biotechnology;
  • fatty acids;
  • VLCPUFA;
  • biodiesel;
  • plastid;
  • transformation

Summary

The ability to manipulate plant fatty acid biosynthesis by using new biotechnological approaches has allowed the production of transgenic plants with unusual fatty acid profile and increased oil content. This review focuses on the production of very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (VLCPUFAs) and the increase in oil content in plants using molecular biology tools. Evidences suggest that regular consumption of food rich in VLCPUFAs has multiple positive health benefits. Alternative sources of these nutritional fatty acids are found in cold-water fishes. However, fish stocks are in severe decline because of decades of overfishing, and also fish oils can be contaminated by the accumulation of toxic compounds. Recently, there is also an increase in oilseed use for the production of biofuels. This tendency is partly associated with the rapidly rising costs of petroleum, increased concern about the environmental impact of fossil oil and the attractive need to develop renewable sources of fuel. In contrast to this scenario, oil derived from crop plants is normally contaminant free and less environmentally aggressive. Genetic engineering of the plastid genome (plastome) offers a number of attractive advantages, including high-level foreign protein expression, marker-gene excision and transgene containment because of maternal inheritance of plastid genome in most crops. Here, we describe the possibility to improve fatty acid biosynthesis in plastids, production of new fatty acids and increase their content in plants by genetic engineering of plastid fatty acid biosynthesis via plastid transformation.