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Triacylglycerol biosynthesis in developing seeds of Tropaeolum majus L. and Limnanthes douglasii R. Br.


Triacylglycerols of both Tropaeolum majus L. and Limnanthes douglasii R. Br. are predominantly esterified with very long-chain acyl groups at each position of the glycerol backbone. In order to elucidate whether these acyl groups are directly chanelled into the triacylglycerols via the stepwise acylation of glycerol-3-phosphate, seed oil formation has been investigated in developing embryos of both plant species. [1-14C]Acetate labelling experiments using embryos at different stages of development, as well as the determination of the properties of the microsomal acyl-CoA:sn-glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase (EC and acyl-CoA:sn-1-acylglycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase (EC, revealed differences between the two plant species, especially with respect to the incorporation of very longchain acyl groups into the C2 position of the triacylglycerols. In microsomal fractions of developing embryos of L. douglasii both a glycerol-3-phosphate and a 1-acylglycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase were detected which utilize very long-chain acyl-CoA thioesters as substrates. Thus, in seeds of L. douglasii very long-chain acyl groups can enter not only the C1, but also the C2 position of the triacylglycerols in the course of de-novo biosynthesis. A comparison of the properties of the acyltransferases of developing embryos with those of the corresponding activities of leaves indicates an embryo specific expression of an erucoyl-CoA-dependent microsomal 1-acylglycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase in L. douglasii. The microsomal glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase of developing embryos of T. majus displayed properties very similar to those of the corresponding activity of L. douglasii. On the other hand, the microsomal 1-acylglycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferases of the two plant species showed strikingly different substrate specificities. Irrespective of the acyl groups of 1-acylglycerol-3-phosphate and regardless of whether acyl-CoA thioesters were offered separately or in mixtures, the enzyme of T. majus, in contrast to that of L. douglasii, was inactive with erucoyl-CoA. These results of the enzyme studies correspond well with those of the [1-14C]acetate labelling experiments and thus indicate that T. majus has developed mechanisms different from those of L. douglasii for the incorporation of erucic acid into the C2 position of its triacylglycerols.

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acyl-CoA:sn-glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase (EC


acyl-CoA:sn-1-acylglycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase (EC


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This work was supported by the Bundesministerium für Forschung und Technologie (Förderkennzeichen 0316600A).

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Löhden, I., Frentzen, M. Triacylglycerol biosynthesis in developing seeds of Tropaeolum majus L. and Limnanthes douglasii R. Br.. Planta 188, 215–224 (1992).

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Key words

  • 1-Acylglycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase
  • Glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase
  • Erucic acid
  • Limnanthes
  • Triacylglycerol
  • Tropaeolum