Dr. Philip Bates has been awarded a new grant by the United States Department of Agriculture, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative titled, “Characterization of a novel triacylglycerol remodeling pathway for accumulation of industrially valuable fatty acids in Physaria fendleri”.

Hydroxylated fatty acids (HFA) are natural bioproducts that have important industrial uses as feedstocks to produce resins, lubricants, plastics, biodegradable polyesters, coatings, any many more. HFA also have various uses in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. For many applications, HFA are a renewable replacement to petroleum-based feedstocks. The major source of HFA is castor seeds, which due to toxicity is limited for production in the US. Castor oil is mostly imported into the US from India, and has a market value of $993 million (2017). Physaria fendleri native to the southwest US produces oil with >60% HFA. Physaria is nontoxic, grows on marginal lands, can be used as winter rotation/cover crop, and is an emerging domestic source of HFA. However, enhancement of domestic HFA sources through Physaria breeding or engineering of other oilseeds is hampered by the lack of molecular knowledge on HFA accumulation in seed oils. Our recent metabolic flux analysis of Physaria oil biosynthesis indicated a novel triacylglycerol (TAG) remodeling pathway for HFA accumulation. When combined with transcriptomic resources, we identified gene candidates that may control this novel pathway. In this project, we will characterize the biochemical features and in planta roles of Physaria candidate genes in TAG remodeling, and engineer TAG remodeling into the industrial platform crop Camelina sativa for accumulation novel oil compositions. This work in collaboration with Grace Chen (USDA-ARS, Albany, CA) will support the goal of producing valuable plant oil-based bioproducts through the continued development of new crops, Physaria and/or engineered Camelina.