IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE - The information on this site is subject to adisclaimerand acopyright notice
Contact   |   Search  
Graphical element Graphical element Graphical element Graphical element Graphical element Graphical element Graphical element Graphical element Graphical element
Cell factory - BAck to the homepage Graphic element Graphical element
Foreword Graphic element Graphical element
Introduction Graphical element
Index by Index by Area Index by Partners Index by Keywords Gr&phic element Graphical element
Volume 1 Graphical element
Graphical element Graphical element

Controlling fatty acid breakdown in order to produce viable oilseeds with increased yields of novel oils (CONSAB)



Cell factory area


EU Contribution

1 993 557 Euro


36 months


Research project

Starting date


Graphical element

Graphical element
Graphical element

It is now possible to produce economically important oils by genetic engineering of major EU crops such as oilseed rape. However, two major technical hurdles have to be overcome in order to market such crops. Firstly, futile cycling (breakdown of the foreign oil by the plant) represents a major generic barrier to the successful commercialisation of designer oils in crop plants. Secondly, oilseeds cannot use these foreign oils as an efficient source of fuel for young seedlings to grow, resulting in non-viable seed. CONFAB aims to overcome hurdle 1 through genetic engineering to increase the rate of oil synthesis and decrease or block the rate of breakdown of the unusual fatty acid components of the oil. CONFAB aims to overcome hurdle 2 by identifying key genes and enzymatic steps in novel oil breakdown and use these to promote seedling growth in crops that have been engineered to accumulate high levels of these valuable products.

Graphical element
Graphical element

CONFAB will use a problem-solving approach to remove the barriers to the production of a high yield of novel oils in EU crop plants. This work is highly relevant to the objectives of the Cell Factory Key Action. Major objectives will be to:

  • Develop a strategy to increase the flux of unusual fatty acids into triacylglycerol, resulting in increased yield of novel oils. A dual approach will be adopted in which we aim to: i) increase the flux of fatty acids into oil by overexpression of key genes involved in the production of triacylglycerol from diacylglycerol and fatty acid and ii) decrease the flux through the fatty acid breakdown pathway by blocking key steps in this process.
  • Identify key genes and enzymatic steps in the breakdown of novel oil and unusual fatty acids. These genes will then be used to promote germination and seedling establishment in crops such as oilseed rape that have been engineered to accumulate high levels of an unusual fatty acid.

Graphical element
Graphical element

A dual strategy will be adopted to increase the flux of unusual fatty acids into triacylglycerol thus increasing the yield of novel oils, specifically:

  • Over-expression of key genes involved in the production of oil from diacylglcerol and fatty acid to increase the flux of fatty acids into triacylglycerols (oil).
  • Blocking key steps in the breakdown process responsible for futile cycling to increase the amount of fatty acid available for incorporation into oil.

This work will involve identification and characterisation of key genes and their manipulation in transgenic plants. Arabidopsis will be used as the model oilseed plant for identification and evaluation of target genes, enabling rapid progress to be made using state-of-the-art molecular genetic tools and methodologies. Technology transfer into oilseed rape will be performed upon confirmation of the effectiveness of target genes in Arabidopsis. CONFAB partners have developed novel methodologies that allow high sensitivity detection of metabolites such as fatty acyl-CoA compounds and ß-oxidation intermediates. These will be used to monitor the relative flux of unusual fatty acids into oil synthesis versus breakdown in Arabidopsis and oilseed rape.

Transgenic plants that accumulate a foreign oil exhibit poor germination and seedling growth. This will be addressed by CONFAB through characterisation of unusual fatty acid mobilisation in transgenic seed germination. The rate of mobilisation of different fatty acids as well as potential intermediates in ß-oxidation will be monitored using novel methodologies. This approach should identify the bottlenecks in the breakdown of unusual fatty acids and provide the first information necessary to allow the cloning of essential genes.

Graphical element
Graphical element
  • Identify and manipulate key genes that control yield of novel oils: to increase the yield of novel oils a number of target genes will have to be evaluated to achieve increased fatty acid flux into oil and a decreased rate of break-down.
  • Identify bottlenecks causing poor seedling growth in seeds containing new oils and genes that can alleviate this effect.

Graphical element
Graphical element
  Prof. Ian Graham
Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), Dpt Biology, University of York Central Science Laboratory
Sand Hutton
YO41 1LZ York, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 1904462371
Fax: +44 1904462374

  Dr. Sten Stymne
Department of Plant Breeding Research
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Herman Ehles v. 2-4
268 31 Svaloev, Sweden
Tel: +46 418671052
Fax: +46 418673556

Dr. Yves Poirier
Institut de Biologie et Physiologie Végétales
Bâtiment de Biologie
Université de Lausanne
1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
Tel: +41 216924222
Fax: +41 216924195

Dr. Alison Baker
Centre for Plant Biochemistry and Biotechnology,
University of Leeds
LS2 9JT Leeds, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 1132333045
Fax: +44 1132333144

Prof. Luigi De Bellis
Dipartimento di Biologia
Via Prov.le Lecce Monteroni
73100 Lecce, Italy
Tel: +39 0832320714

Dr. Jens Lerchl
Plant Biotechnology
ZHP-Building A30
67056 Ludwigshafen, Germany
Tel: +49 6216043694
Fax: +49 6216092081

Dr. Vincent Arondel
Laboratoire de Lipolyse Enzymatique
31 Chemin Joseph Aiguier
13402 Marseille Cedex 20, France
Tel: +33 491164222
Fax: +33 491715857
Graphical element