A Cuphea β-ketoacyl-ACP synthase shifts the synthesis of fatty acids towards shorter chains in Arabidopsis seeds expressing Cuphea FatB thioesterases

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Acyl-acyl carrier protein (ACP) thioesterases with specificities on medium chain substrates (C8-C14) are requisite enzymes in plants that produce 8:0, 10:0, 12:0 and 14:0 seed oils, but they may not be the sole enzymatic determinants of chain length. The contribution to chain length regulation of a β-ketoacyl-ACP synthase, Cw KAS A1, derived from Cuphea wrightii, a species that accumulates 30% 10:0 and 54% 12:0 in seed oils, was investigated. Expression of Cw KAS A1 in Arabidopsis seeds reduced 16:0 from 8.2 to 6.2 mol%, suggesting a KAS II-type activity. In the presence of the KAS I inhibitor cerulenin, however, transgenic seed extracts extended 6:0- and 8:0-ACP at a rate four- to fivefold greater than extracts from untransformed plants, whereas no difference was observed in extension of 14:0- and 16:0-ACP. The effect of KAS A1 on seed oils was tested by combining it with the C. wrightii medium chain-specific thioesterases, Cw FatB1 and Cw FatB2, in crosses of transformed plants. Fatty acid synthesis shifted towards shorter chains in progeny expressing both classes of enzymes. KasA1/FatB1 homozygotes produced threefold more 12:0 than the FatB1 parent while 14:0 and 16:0 were reduced by one-third and one-half, respectively. F2 progeny expressing KasA1 and FatB2 produced twofold more 10:0 and 1.4-fold more 12:0 than the FatB2 parent, and the double-transgenic progeny produced one-quarter less 14:0 and one-half less 16:0 than the FatB2 parent. It is hypothesized that the shift towards production of shorter chains resulted from increased pools of medium chain acyl-ACP resulting from KAS A1 activity. The combined activities of KAS A1 and FatB thioesterases appear to determine the C. wrightii phenotype.

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