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cooking and biodiesel

More oil in leaves

Globules of oil (green) within leaf cells containing the altered PDAT gene

Brookhaven National LaboratoryGlobules of oil (green) within leaf cells containing the altered PDAT geneBrookhaven National Laboratory

Soybean oil, used both in cooking and in biodiesel, and olive and palm oil are extracted from the seeds or fruit of their respective plants, since this is where the oils are found most abundantly in nature. But a discovery recently made in the United States may also endow the leaves of these plants with a high enough oil content for commercial purposes in the future. Researchers at the U.S. Department of State’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have identified the genes responsible for producing oil in leaves and other plant tissues. By using biotechnological methods to overexpress the genes of an enzyme called PDAT, all plant biomass began producing elevated oil contents – as much as 170 times higher than normal. This introduces the possibility that greater yields of vegetable oils can be produced over smaller stretches of land for use as foodstuff and in the biofuel industry. The results of this research, coordinated by biochemist Changcheng Xu, were reported in two scientific periodicals: The Plant Journal (September 2013) and Plant Cell (October 2013). The experiments were first conducted on the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana.