Salk Institute

Technologies Available for Licensing

Metabolic engineering of lipid metabolism by improving fatty acid binding and transport

Inventors: Florence Pojer, Joseph P. Noel, Elise Larsen, Marianne Bowman, Stephane Richard
Potential Uses: Plant Biology, Transgenic Animals, Natural Products
Metabolic pathway engineering of lipids in plants; protein crystallography and design.

In addition to their importance in human nutrition, plant fatty acids, or vegetable oils, are major ingredients of nonfood products such as soaps, detergents, lubricants, biofuels, cosmetics, and paints. With the accelerating costs of petroleum, vegetable oils provide an increasingly cost-effective alternate source for raw materials. Yet, though selecting plants for increased oil production by classical methods has been ongoing for at least a century, it has proved difficult and complex to determine trait-genotype associations for this seemingly simple trait.

In plants, the majority of fatty acids are biosynthesized in the plastid. Nearly all aspects of fatty acid metabolism in plants have been uncovered, but one of the remaining questions that has thus far resisted elucidation is how free fatty acids are transferred from an inner thylakoid membrane to an outer envelope of a plastid.

Salk researchers have overcome these difficulties through isolating a family of chalcone isomerase (CHI)-like genes encoding fatty acid binding proteins that assist in transport of fatty acids to the outer plastid envelope, providing a target for engineering lipid metabolism in plants. For example, lipid production is likely to be increased by overexpressing CHI-like fatty acid binding proteins in cells of the plants.

The complete crystal structures of two proteins are described, making it possible to engineer the proteins to modulate fatty acid binding and plastid transport, for example, to increase transport activity. Also provided are CHI-like fatty acid binding proteins and genes, recombinant cells and organisms, methods of metabolic pathway engineering to improve lipid production in cells, and methods and systems of engineering CHI-like fatty acid binding proteins.

The technology can be used to produce transgenic organisms, including mammals, transduced with the nucleic acids of the invention. Thus, in addition to making transgenic plants, transgenic livestock or domesticated animals could be made recombinant for a given polypeptide, or a modified form, changing the fat content or feeding behavior of the animal.

Salk No: S06006
Patent Status: International Patent Application published as WO 2008/008467 A2
Publications: No publications to date
License Terms: Exclusive or Non-Exclusive Licenses Available
Contact: Michelle Booden, Ph.D., Director of Licensing, 858.453.4100 x1612,

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