Biotech Updates

Oil Production Mechanism in Plants Identified

June 8, 2012

Scientists at the United States Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have identified the key element in the biochemical mechanism that plants use to limit the production of fatty acids. The results suggest that scientists might target the biochemical pathways to increase production of plant oils as renewable resources for biofuels and industrial processes.

Brookhaven biochemist John Shanklin said that understanding how plants know when they have made enough oil and slow down production will help his team look for ways to break the feedback loop so the plants keep making more oil. Shanklin said that it is difficult to work on oil seeds because of their small size, so they simulated what goes on the seeds using a plant embryo cell culture. 

With these results, Shanklin and his team is now exploring how to interfere with the feedback mechanism, saying, "If we can interrupt this process, we hope to fool the cells so they won't be able to gauge how much oil they have made and will make more."

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