Navigation Links
'Fat worms' inch scientists toward better biofuel production

EAST LANSING, Mich. Fat worms confirm that researchers from Michigan State University have successfully engineered a plant with oily leaves -- a feat that could enhance biofuel production as well as lead to improved animal feeds.

The results, published in the current issue of The Plant Cell, the journal of the American Society of Plant Biologists, show that researchers could use an algae gene involved in oil production to engineer a plant that stores lipids or vegetable oil in its leaves an uncommon occurrence for most plants.

Traditional biofuel research has focused on improving the oil content of seeds. One reason for this focus is because oil production in seeds occurs naturally. Little research, however, has been done to examine the oil production of leaves and stems, as plants don't typically store lipids in these tissues.

Christoph Benning, MSU professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, led a collaborative effort with colleagues from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. The team's efforts resulted in a significant early step toward producing better plants for biofuels.

"Many researchers are trying to enhance plants' energy density, and this is another way of approaching it," Benning said. "It's a proof-of-concept that could be used to boost plants' oil production for biofuel use as well as improve the nutrition levels of animal feed."

Benning and his colleagues began by identifying five genes from one-celled green algae. From the five, they identified one that, when inserted into Arabidopsis thaliana, successfully boosted oil levels in the plant's leaf tissue.

To confirm that the improved plants were more nutritious and contained more energy, the research team fed them to caterpillar larvae. The larvae that were fed oily leaves from the enhanced plants gained more weight than worms that ate regular leaves.

For the next phase of the research, Benning and his colleagues will work to enhance oil production in grasses and algae that have economic value. The benefits of this research are worth pursuing, Benning said.

"If oil can be extracted from leaves, stems and seeds, the potential energy capacity of plants may double," he said. "Further, if algae can be engineered to continuously produce high levels of oil, rather than only when they are under stress, they can become a viable alternative to traditional agricultural crops."

Moreover, algae can be grown on poor agricultural land a big plus in the food vs. fuel debate, he added.

"These basic research findings are significant in advancing the engineering of oil-producing plants," said Kenneth Keegstra, GLBRC scientific director and MSU University Distinguished Professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. "They will help write a new chapter on the development of production schemes that will enhance the quantity, quality and profitability of both traditional and nontraditional crops."


Contact: Layne Cameron
Michigan State University

Related biology news :

1. Thailand: Astonishing 10 new species of semi-aquatic freshwater earthworms revealed
2. Waste removal in worms reveals new mechanism to regulate calcium signaling
3. What do leeches, limpets and worms have in common? Now, a sequenced genome
4. Using planarian flatworms to understand organ regeneration
5. Artificial intelligence helps detect subtle differences in mutant worms
6. Earthworms soak up heavy metal
7. Scientists use worms to unearth cancer drug targets
8. Microbes, sponges, and worms add to coral reef woes
9. Acid-wielding worms drill through bones at the bottom of the sea
10. Scientists create new maps depicting potential worldwide coral bleaching by 2056
11. Scientists find surprising new influence on cancer genes
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/29/2015)... Oct. 29, 2015 Today, LifeBEAM ... partnership with 2XU, a global leader in technical ... smart hat with advanced bio-sensing technology. The hat ... to monitor key biometrics to improve overall training ... the two companies will bring together the most advanced ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... SAN JOSE, Calif. , Oct. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... human interface solutions, today announced that Google has adopted ... family of touch controller solutions to power its newest ... Nexus 6P by Huawei. --> ... ecosystem partners like Google to provide strategic collaboration in ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... 26, 2015  Delta ID Inc., a company focused ... and PC devices, announced its ActiveIRIS® technology powers the ... F-02H launched by NTT DOCOMO, INC in ... second smartphone to include iris recognition technology, after a ... F-04G in May 2015, world,s first smartphone to have ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... PUNE, India , November 26, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... The Global Biobanking Market 2016 - 2020 ... biobanks by maintaining integrity and quality in long-term ... and enabling long-term cost-effectiveness. Automation minimizes manual errors ... improves the technical efficiency. Further, it plays a ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... and HOLLISTON, Mass. , ... Inc. (Nasdaq: HART ), a biotechnology company developing ... CEO Jim McGorry will present at the ... 1, 2015 at 2:30 p.m. PT. The presentation will ... for 30 days. Management will also be available at ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 Orexigen® Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: ... a fireside chat discussion at the Piper Jaffray 27th ... . The discussion is scheduled for Wednesday, December 2, ... .  A replay will be available for 14 days ... , Julie NormartVP, Corporate Communications and Business Development , ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 2015 , ... The United States Golf Association (USGA) today announced Dr. Bruce ... Presented annually since 1961, the USGA Green Section Award recognizes an individual’s distinguished service ... , Clarke, of Iselin, N.J., is an extension specialist of turfgrass pathology in the ...
Breaking Biology Technology: