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Development and potential of genetically engineered oilseeds

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 February 2007

John M. Dyer*
USDA-ARS Southern Regional Research Center, 1100 Robert E. Lee Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70124, USA
Robert T. Mullen
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada
Correspondence: Fax: +1 504 286 4419 Email:


Oilseed crops are major sources of oils for human nutrition, and an increasing proportion is also being utilized for industrial purposes. Recent advances in our understanding of the basic biochemistry of seed oil biosynthesis, coupled with identification of genes for oilseed modification, have set the stage for the genetic engineering of oilseed crops that produce ‘designer’ plant seed oils tailored for specific applications. In this review we provide an overview of seed oil biosynthesis and highlight the enzymatic steps that have already been targeted for genetic manipulation, with the end goal of producing seed oils containing desired amounts of fatty acid components. Furthermore, we describe the identification of genes from various wild plant species that are capable of producing structurally diverse fatty acids, and how these advances open the door to the production of entirely novel oils in conventional oilseed crops. Transgenic oilseeds producing high amounts of these novel fatty acids represent renewable sources of raw materials that may compete with, and eventually replace, some petrochemicals that are derived from non-renewable crude oil.

Invited Review
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2005

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