What's happening at IRRI

Thursday Seminar

Thursday, February 23, 2017, 01:15pm - 02:15pm


February 23, 2017
1:15pm-2:15pm, Havener Auditorium

"Designer plant oils through metabolic engineering"
Author: Surinder Singh
Senior Principal Scientist, Group Leader, Plant Oil Engineering, CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Canberra, Australia

Plant oils are an important source of dietary fat and represent as much as 25% of human caloric intake in developed countries. The current annual world production of plant oils is about 130 million tonnes, with a value of more than USD 65 billion, of which 86% is used for human consumption and the rest utilised in industrial applications.
Fatty acids are the major constituents of plant oils and represent an impressive renewable resource of calories and nutrients. Naturally, there is an enormous diversity of fatty acids; however, current commercial plant oils are comprised of relatively few fatty acids. A combination of the ability to genetically engineer most commercial oilseed species and an explosion in the knowledge of genes controlling the synthesis of fatty acids enables the application of metabolic engineering for the production of plant oils with enhanced nutritional properties.
In this seminar, I will discuss strategies being employed in the Plant Oils Engineering Group at CSIRO for the development of nutritionally and industrially improved plant oils. These include the use of RNAi gene silencing for the creation of a highly monounsaturated form of oil for food and oleochemical applications. I will also discuss the production of omega-3 long-chain (≥C20) polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω3 LC-PUFA), such as EPA and DHA, which have critical roles in human health and development. Numerous studies indicate that deficiencies in these fatty acids can increase the risk or severity, particularly, of cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases. In order to meet the increasing demand for these oils, there is an urgent need for an alternative, safe, and sustainable source of EPA and DHA. My talk will describe the transition of DHA production in seed of our model species Arabidopsis, through to Camelina and our target crop, canola. DHA levels that exceed the amount typically found in bulk fish oil have now been achieved in all three species and involved the transfer of a 7-gene algal pathway into oilseed crops. Finally, I will talk about the engineering of seed oil-like levels in leaves of plants. This approach has the potential to revolutionise the way plant oils are produced, with palm oil-like productivity achievable in high-biomass C4 crops such as sorghum and miscanthus.


Havener Auditorium, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, 4030 Laguna, Philippines