Boost in Plant Oil Content Using CRISPR Gene Editing

Since ancient times, extracting vegetable oil from plant leaves and seeds, for fuel and food purposes, remained a traditional worldwide culture. Certain vegetable oils have significant benefits for health, e.g., lowering cholesterol level and risk of heart diseases.

Oil extraction from seeds and fruits is done with traditional methods, which have some extracting problems, these extraction methods often result in the thrown away of the rest of the plant. A biochemistry professor, Jay Thelen, at Missouri State University, has identified a way to increase the production of tri-acylglycerol, the key element of vegetable oil, in plant leaves. A method that can allow growers to extract oil from large quantities of leafy plants, ignoring other uses. For example, sorghum – a world grain source, recognized for its drought tolerant properties, can play a dual role as a producer of vegetable oil.

CRISPR Gene Editing

Thelen and co-workers, researchers at the Thelen Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts, in their recently published research used the CRISPR gene-editing tool to disable a family of genes that they discovered are responsible for regulating fatty-acids in Arabidopsis (model plant) leaves.

Fatty acid synthesis in plants is regulated with light exposure.

Thelen

Thelen, who also works at the College of Agriculture, FNR, and BSLS, also said that this research has indicated three proteins that inhibit fatty acid synthesis in leaves, and to boost plant oil content, they have turned off their associated genes using CRISPR, which allowed the plant to higher the production of tri-acylglycerol in plant leaves than in the seeds alone.”

To increase the inexpensive production of vegetable oil, gene-editing method could be very helpful. The dual-use of leafy crops like sorghum and soybean could reduce the burden on producing seeds with higher oil content. Such exposure often has undesirable consequences, including a decrease in the level of protein, which is the main product of soybean seeds, said Thelen.

Plants are novel ‘green’ factories for the production of food, chemical raw materials, and fuel. Researchers have also identified a new technique to detect the quantity of tea content in plants. Thelen and his colleagues continued their research to test its sustainable viability on crops.

Source: Ye et al. 2020.