Transgenic Arabidopsis plants can accumulate polyhydroxybutyrate to up to 4% of their fresh weight
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Transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh. plants expressing the three enzymes encoding the biosynthetic route to polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) are described. These plants accumulated more than 4% of their fresh weight (≈40% of their dry weight) in the form of PHB in leaf chloroplasts. These very high producers were obtained and identified following a novel strategy consisting of a rapid GC-MS analysis of a large number of transgenic Arabidopsis plants generated using a triple construct, thus allowing the parallel transfer of all three genes necessary for PHB synthesis in a single transformation event. The level of PHB produced was 4-fold greater than previously published values, thus demonstrating the large potential of plants to produce this renewable resource. However, the high levels of the polymer produced had severe effects on both plant development and metabolism. Stunted growth and a loss of fertility were observed in the high-producing lines. Analysis of the metabolite composition of these lines using a GC-MS method that we have newly developed showed that the accumulation of high levels of PHB was not accompanied by an appreciable change in either the composition or the amount of fatty acids. Substantial changes were, however, observed in the levels of various organic acids, amino acids, sugars and sugar alcohols.
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