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1.  Efficient selection and evaluation of transgenic lines of Crambe abyssinica 
Crambe abyssinica is a dedicated oilseed crop suitable for production of industrial feedstocks. Genetic modification of crambe has progressed substantially in the last few years, but the transformation efficiency needs to be further improved. Meanwhile, developing a reliable molecular system including Southern blot and qRT-PCR analyses is desired for effectively evaluating transgenic lines and gene expression levels of both endogenous and transgenes. In this study, we have developed an efficient transformation protocol with hygromycin as the selective agent for crambe transformation. In the regeneration test, addition of hygromycin at concentration of 5 mg L−1 resulted in 18% of shoot regeneration using crambe hypocotyls as explants, while no regeneration occurred when the hygromycin concentration reached 10 mg L−1. Based on this result, the hygromycin concentration up to 10 mg L−1 was used in the subsequent transformations. The results showed that the transformation efficiency under constant low selection pressure (H3-H3) was similar to that under higher selection pressure first, followed by transfer to lower selection pressure (H10-H3). The PCR, Southern blot and fatty acid composition analyses confirmed the integration of transgenes in the crambe genome. We have also optimized the Southern and qRT-PCR methods for future studies on crambe or related species. For Southern blot analysis on crambe, more than 50 μg DNA is required for a clear band. The choice of enzymes for DNA digestion was not rigid for confirmation of the T-DNA integration, while for determining the copy number of transgenes, suitable enzymes should be chosen. Increasing the enzyme concentration could improve the digestion and 20 μl enzyme was recomended for a complete digestion of up to 80 μg crambe DNA. For qRT-PCR analysis, around 20 days after flowering was observed to be the suitable sampling time for expresseion analysis of genes invovled in the seed oil biosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC3664313  PMID: 23750164
Crambe abyssinica; genetic transformation; hygromycin selection; qRT-PCR; Southern blotting
2.  Identification of avian wax synthases 
BMC Biochemistry  2012;13:4.
Bird species show a high degree of variation in the composition of their preen gland waxes. For instance, galliform birds like chicken contain fatty acid esters of 2,3-alkanediols, while Anseriformes like goose or Strigiformes like barn owl contain wax monoesters in their preen gland secretions. The final biosynthetic step is catalyzed by wax synthases (WS) which have been identified in pro- and eukaryotic organisms.
Sequence similarities enabled us to identify six cDNAs encoding putative wax synthesizing proteins in chicken and two from barn owl and goose. Expression studies in yeast under in vivo and in vitro conditions showed that three proteins from chicken performed WS activity while a sequence from chicken, goose and barn owl encoded a bifunctional enzyme catalyzing both wax ester and triacylglycerol synthesis. Mono- and bifunctional WS were found to differ in their substrate specificities especially with regard to branched-chain alcohols and acyl-CoA thioesters. According to the expression patterns of their transcripts and the properties of the enzymes, avian WS proteins might not be confined to preen glands.
We provide direct evidence that avian preen glands possess both monofunctional and bifunctional WS proteins which have different expression patterns and WS activities with different substrate specificities.
PMCID: PMC3316144  PMID: 22305293
3.  Multifunctional Acyltransferases from Tetrahymena thermophila 
Lipids  2011;47(4):371-381.
Multifunctional acyltransferases are able to catalyze the esterification of various acyl-acceptors with activated fatty acids. Here we describe the identification of four proteins from Tetrahymena thermophila that share certain properties with mammalian acyltransferases regarding their predicted transmembrane structure, their molecular mass and the typical acyltransferase motif. Expression of the Tetrahymena sequences results in production of triacylglycerols and wax esters in recombinant yeast when appropriate substrates are provided. The in vitro characterization shows, that these enzymes are capable of esterifying different acyl-acceptors including fatty alcohols, diols, diacylglycerols and isoprenols with acyl-CoA thioesters. Based on these catalytic activities and the sequence similarities of the Tetrahymena proteins with acyl-CoA:diacylglycerol acyltransferase 2 (DGAT2) family members, we conclude that we identified a new group of DGAT2-related multifunctional acyltransferases from protozoan organisms.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11745-011-3642-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3311841  PMID: 22160552
Multifunctional acyltransferase; Tetrahymena; Wax ester; DGAT; Prenyl ester; Diester
4.  Fatty acyl-CoA reductases of birds 
BMC Biochemistry  2011;12:64.
Birds clean and lubricate their feathers with waxes that are produced in the uropygial gland, a holocrine gland located on their back above the tail. The type and the composition of the secreted wax esters are dependent on the bird species, for instance the wax ester secretion of goose contains branched-chain fatty acids and unbranched fatty alcohols, whereas that of barn owl contains fatty acids and alcohols both of which are branched. Alcohol-forming fatty acyl-CoA reductases (FAR) catalyze the reduction of activated acyl groups to fatty alcohols that can be esterified with acyl-CoA thioesters forming wax esters.
cDNA sequences encoding fatty acyl-CoA reductases were cloned from the uropygial glands of barn owl (Tyto alba), domestic chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) and domestic goose (Anser anser domesticus). Heterologous expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae showed that they encode membrane associated enzymes which catalyze a NADPH dependent reduction of acyl-CoA thioesters to fatty alcohols. By feeding studies of transgenic yeast cultures and in vitro enzyme assays with membrane fractions of transgenic yeast cells two groups of isozymes with different properties were identified, termed FAR1 and FAR2. The FAR1 group mainly synthesized 1-hexadecanol and accepted substrates in the range between 14 and 18 carbon atoms, whereas the FAR2 group preferred stearoyl-CoA and accepted substrates between 16 and 20 carbon atoms. Expression studies with tissues of domestic chicken indicated that FAR transcripts were not restricted to the uropygial gland.
The data of our study suggest that the identified and characterized avian FAR isozymes, FAR1 and FAR2, can be involved in wax ester biosynthesis and in other pathways like ether lipid synthesis.
PMCID: PMC3265415  PMID: 22151413

Results 1-4 (4)