, Volume 249, Issue 2, pp 333–350 | Cite as

Genetic control of fatty acid composition in coconut (Cocos nucifera), African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), and date palm (Phoenix dactylifera)

  • Yong Xiao
  • Wei XiaEmail author
  • Annaliese S. Mason
  • Zengying Cao
  • Haikuo Fan
  • Bo Zhang
  • Jinlan Zhang
  • Zilong Ma
  • Ming Peng
  • Dongyi Huang
Original Article


Main conclusion

Predominant gene isoforms and expression bias in lipid metabolism pathways are highly conserved between oil-producing Arecaceae crop species coconut and oil palm, but diverge in non-oil-producing species date palm.


Coconut (Cocos nucifera), African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) and date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) are three major crop species in the Arecaceae family for which genome sequences have recently become available. Coconut and African oil palm both store oil in their endosperms, while date palm fruits contain very little oil. We analyzed fatty acid composition in three coconut tissues (leaf, endosperm and embryo) and in two African oil palm tissues (leaf and mesocarp), and identified 806, 840 and 848 lipid-related genes in 22 lipid metabolism pathways from the coconut, African oil palm and date palm genomes, respectively. The majority of lipid-related genes were highly homologous and retained in homologous segments between the three species. Genes involved in the conversion of pyruvate to fatty acid had a five-to-sixfold higher expression in the coconut endosperm and oil palm mesocarp than in the leaf or embryo tissues based on Fragments Per Kilobase of transcript per Million mapped reads values. A close evolutionary relationship between predominant gene isoforms and high conservation of gene expression bias in the lipid and carbohydrate gene metabolism pathways was observed for the two oil-producing species coconut and oil palm, differing from that of date palm, a non-oil-producing species. Our results elucidate the similarities and differences in lipid metabolism between the three major Arecaceae crop species, providing important information for physiology studies as well as breeding for fatty acid composition and oil content in these crops.


Expression bias Homologous segment Lipid-related genes Oil composition Predominant gene isoforms 



Acyl carrier protein




Diacylglycerol acyltransferase


Acyl-ACP thioesterase A(B)


Fragments Per kb per Million reads


Hydroxyacyl-ACP dehydratase


Ketoacyl-ACP reductase


Ketoacyl-ACP synthase


Lysophosphatidic acid acyltransferase


Oil-body oleosins


Phospholipid:diacylglycerol acyltransferase


Pyruvate dehydrogenase complex


Stearoyl-ACP desaturase






Week post-anthesis



Thanks to Tingting Luo at Huazhong Agricultural University for the technical help in fatty acid extraction. This work was supported by grants from Hainan Natural Science Foundation (No. 313058) and the Fundamental Scientific Research Funds for Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences (Project No. 1630152018007, No. 1630152017004 and No. 1630152017005). ASM is supported by DFG Emmy Noether grant MA6473/1-1.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Coconut Research Institute, CATASWenchangPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Hainan Key Laboratory for Sustainable Utilization of Tropical Bioresources, Institute of Tropical Agriculture and ForestryHainan UniversityHaikouPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.MOA Key Laboratory of Tropical Crop Biology and Genetic Resources UtilizationInstitute of Tropical Bioscience and Biotechnology, CATASHaikouPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Department of Plant Breeding, IFZ Research Centre for Biosystems, Land Use and NutritionJustus Liebig University GiessenGiessenGermany

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