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Crop Biotech Update

MSU Discovers Choloroplasts' Role in Making Biofuels

August 16, 2017

Michigan State University researchers are experimenting with harvesting seed oil to make biofuels that could power jets and cars. Researchers show that the chloroplast, where plant photosynthesis occurs, participates in providing seed oil precursors.

Scientists have identified a new enzyme, PLIP1, or Plastid Lipade 1, that interacts with lipids inside the chloroplast. The enzyme was found to break down lipids that make up the chloroplast thylakoids. Leftover lipid products are then transported to the endoplasmic reticulum, a massive cellular factory, where they become building blocks for seed oil.

The team wants to increase the level of PLIP1 in biofuel-targeted plants to produce more seed oil. However, initial testing has unexpectedly led to a smaller plant with more oil per seed but fewer seeds, and higher defense activity. With oil production and plant defense functions appearing to not coexist well, the team are thinking of new ideas to bypass this limitation.