Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory
discovered how a sugar-signalling molecule helps control oil production in
plant cells. The results, published in The Plant Cell journal could provide
new strategies to engineer plants to produce large amounts of oil for
biofuels and other oil-based products.
A previous study by John Shanklin and team at Brookhaven Lab showed a clear
connection between a protein complex called KIN10 which senses sugar levels
in plant cells and another protein (WRINKLED1) that serves as the switch for
oil production. Using the previous study's findings, the researchers
demonstrated that combinations of genetic variants can be used to boost
sugar production in the leaves to drive up oil production.
"By measuring the interactions among many different molecules, we determined
that the sugar-signaling molecule, T6P, binds with KIN10 and interferes with
its interaction with a previously unidentified intermediate in this process,
known as GRIK1, which is needed for KIN10 to tag WRINKLED1 for destruction.
This explains how the signal affects the chain of events and leads to
increased oil production," Shanklin said. "It's not just sugar but the
signaling molecule that rises and falls with sugar that inhibits the oil
shut-off mechanism," he added.