, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 221-229
Date: 07 Jul 2009

Towards the production of high levels of eicosapentaenoic acid in transgenic plants: the effects of different host species, genes and promoters

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Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20:5n-3) plays an important role in many aspects of human health. In our efforts towards producing high levels of EPA in plants, we investigated the effects of different host species, genes and promoters on EPA biosynthesis. Zero-erucic acid Brassica carinata appeared to be an outstanding host species for EPA production, with EPA levels in transgenic seed of this line reaching up to 25%. Two novel genes, an 18-carbon ω3 desaturase (CpDesX) from Claviceps purpurea and a 20-carbon ω3 desaturase (Pir-ω3) from Pythium irregulare, proved to be very effective in increasing EPA levels in high-erucic acid B. carinata. The conlinin1 promoter from flax functioned reasonably well in B. carinata, and can serve as an alternative to the napin promoter from B. napus. In summary, the judicious selection of host species and promoters, together with the inclusion of genes that enhance the basic very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid biosynthetic pathway, can greatly influence the production of EPA in plants.