Bottlenecks in erucic acid accumulation in genetically engineered ultrahigh erucic acid Crambe abyssinica



Erucic acid is a valuable industrial fatty acid with many applications. The main producers of this acid are today high erucic rapeseed (Brassica napus) and mustard (Brassica juncea), which have 45%–50% of erucic acid in their seed oils. Crambe abyssinica is an alternative promising producer of this acid as it has 55%–60% of erucic acid in its oil. Through genetic modification (GM) of three genes, we have previously increased the level of erucic acid to 71% (68 mol%) in Crambe seed oil. In this study, we further investigated different aspects of oil biosynthesis in the developing GM Crambe seeds in comparison with wild-type (Wt) Crambe, rapeseed and safflower (Carthamus tinctorius). We show that Crambe seeds have very low phosphatidylcholine-diacylglycerol interconversion, suggesting it to be the main reason why erucic acid is limited in the membrane lipids during oil biosynthesis. We further show that GM Crambe seeds have slower seed development than Wt, accompanied by slower oil accumulation during the first 20 days after flowering (DAF). Despite low accumulation of erucic acid during early stages of GM seed development, nearly 86 mol% of all fatty acids accumulated between 27 and 50 DAF was erucic acid, when 40% of the total oil is laid down. Likely bottlenecks in the accumulation of erucic acid during early stages of GM Crambe seed development are discussed.