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Plants' oil-desaturating enzymes pair up to channel metabolites
Date:5/9/2014

UPTON, NY-Plant scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have found that certain enzymes responsible for desaturating fatty acids, the building blocks of oils, can link up to efficiently pass intermediate products from one enzyme to another. "Engineering these enzyme interactions to channel metabolites along desired metabolic pathways could be a new approach for tailoring plants to produce useful products," said Brookhaven biochemist John Shanklin, lead author on a paper reporting the results in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Getting plants to accumulate high levels of more healthful polyunsaturated fatty acids, or unusual fatty acids that could be used as raw materials in place of petroleum-derived chemicals in industrial processes, are a few possible outcomes.

Metabolic channeling

The idea would be to take advantage of a process called metabolic channeling, wherein enzymes that act sequentially in a particular metabolic pathway interact with each other so that they are able to pass molecules to each other without them entering the general metabolite pool of the cell. This close arrangement of enzymes also prevents intermediates from entering the metabolic channel.

Previous studies by Shanklin's group had shown that a distinct kind of desaturase enzyme that floats freely in plant plastids-mini plant cell "organs" where many metabolic processes, including photosynthesis, take place-pair up with themselves to form structures called dimers. The group had also studied baker's yeast and determined that its membrane-bound desaturase formed dimers too. But no studies had looked for these kinds of macromolecular arrangements in membrane-bound desaturases, called FADs, in higher plants. The current study used a molecular-genetic approach to explore the organization of membrane desaturases found in the plastids and endoplasmic reticulum (another membrane structure inside cell
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Contact: Karen McNulty Walsh
kmcnulty@bnl.gov
631-344-8350
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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Plants' oil-desaturating enzymes pair up to channel metabolites
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