Scientists in America, who’ve been working hard to figure out why a plant produces the amount of fatty acid that it does, think that they have made an important breakthrough, which could pave the way for ‘tricking’ plants into producing more oil or human use.
The brainy types at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have identified ‘key elements’ in the biochemical mechanism that plants use to regulate the flow of fatty acids. If these limitations can be turned off, it could mean a whole lot more renewably-sourced oil for everyone.
Brookhaven biochemist John Shanklin, who led the project, explains:
"Now that we understand how this system operates - how plants 'know' when they've made enough oil and how they slow down production - we can look for ways to break the feedback loop so they keep making more oil,"
The work, which involved painstaking study of tiny plant embryos, found that one particular fatty acid sends a ‘slow down’ signal to limit plants’ oil production. The team then did some intensive research to discover exactly how this takes place, identifying both the ‘target’ and ‘signal’ in the process.
So having figured out how plants do this, the next question for Shanklin’s team is how to put it to good use. "If we can interrupt this process, we hope to fool the cells so they won't be able to gauge how much oil they have made and will make more," Shanklin said.