Plant Cell Reports

, Volume 37, Issue 11, pp 1571–1583 | Cite as

Cyclopropane fatty acid biosynthesis in plants: phylogenetic and biochemical analysis of Litchi Kennedy pathway and acyl editing cycle genes

  • Jay ShockeyEmail author
  • David Kuhn
  • Tao Chen
  • Heping Cao
  • Barbara Freeman
  • Catherine Mason
Original Article


Key message

This report describes the most extensive known gene discovery study from an oilseed that produces cyclopropane fatty acids, a novel industrial feedstock.


Nature contains hundreds of examples of plant species that accumulate unusual fatty acids in seed triacylglycerols (TAG). Although lipid metabolic genes have been cloned from several exotic plant species, the underlying mechanisms that control the production of novel TAG species are still poorly understood. One such class of unusual fatty acids contain in-chain cyclopropane or cyclopropene functionalities that confer chemical and physical properties useful in the synthesis of lubricants, cosmetics, dyes, coatings, and other types of valuable industrial feedstocks. These cyclopropyl fatty acids, or CPFAs, are only produced by a small number of plants, primarily in the order Malvidae. Litchi chinensis is one member of this group; its seed oil contains at least 40 mol% CPFAs. Several genes, representing early, middle, and late steps in the Litchi fatty acid and TAG biosynthetic pathways have been cloned and characterized here. The tissue-specific and developmental transcript expression profiles and biochemical characteristics observed indicate which enzymes might play a larger role in Litchi seed TAG biosynthesis and accumulation. These data, therefore, provide insights into which genes likely represent the best targets for either silencing or overexpression, in future metabolic engineering strategies aimed at altering CPFA content.


Cyclopropyl fatty acids Triacylglycerol Gene expression Diacylglycerol acyltransferase Cyclopropane synthase 



Cyclopropyl fatty acid


Cyclopropane fatty acid synthase


Diacylglycerol acyltransferase


Gas chromatography


Glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase


Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase


Lysophosphatidic acid acyltransferase


Lysophosphatidylcholine acyltransferase




Phosphatidylcholine: diacylglycerol cholinephosphotransferase





Funding was provided by Agricultural Research Service (6435-41000-083-00D, 6038-21000-024-00-D).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

299_2018_2329_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary material 1 Online Resource 1. Predicted amino acid sequences of plant CPS genes used in Figure 2, including LcCPSs (DOCX 17 KB)
299_2018_2329_MOESM2_ESM.docx (21 kb)
Supplementary material 2 Online Resource 2. Predicted amino acid sequences of plant DGAT genes used in Figure 3, including LcDGATs (DOCX 21 KB)
299_2018_2329_MOESM3_ESM.xlsx (152 kb)
Supplementary material 3 Online Resource 3. Raw data for Litchi lipid metabolic gene real-time quantitative RT-PCR analyses (XLSX 151 KB)
299_2018_2329_MOESM4_ESM.docx (156 kb)
Supplementary material 4 Online Resource 4. Litchi DGAT complementation of baker’s yeast strain H1246 grown in liquid media containing free oleic acid (DOCX 156 KB)


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© This is a U.S. government work and its text is not subject to copyright protection in the United States; however, its text may be subject to foreign copyright protection 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Commodity Utilization Research Unit, United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research ServiceSouthern Regional Research CenterNew OrleansUSA
  2. 2.Subtropical Horticulture Research StationUnited States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research ServiceMiamiUSA
  3. 3.Fairy Lake Botanical GardenChinese Academy of SciencesShenzhenChina

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