Scientists from Michigan State University have uncovered a previously unknown metabolic mechanism used by plants to create seed oil.
The results, described Wednesday in the British journal Nature, address a longstanding question in plant biology – why do oilseed plants rely on a seemingly inefficient metabolic process to produce such prodigious amount of energy-rich oil? The answer, according to the MSU team, is that plant seeds are more efficient than anyone thought. "Seeds achieve this high efficiency by using long-known biochemical reactions that are combined in an unconventional way, which had not been expected by biochemists," said Jörg Schwender, MSU plant biology professor and lead author of the study.
The researchers studied canola (or rapeseed), an annual crop in the mustard family that is widely cultivated throughout the upper Midwest, Canada, Europe and Asia. The oil extracted from the seeds of this plant is used to make everything from margarine to industrial lubricants. Seeds store large oil reserves to use as energy to germinate and grow. In canola, for example, oil can comprise half of the seeds weight. The rise of modern biochemistry over the last few decades has increased interest in making quantitative descriptions of plants and animals biochemical reactions.
Jörg Schwender | EurekAlert!
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