Soybeans are vital to the world's food and feed supply as they are a potent source of protein and oil. Improvements to soybeans have far-reaching implications for agricultural productivity and global economies.
New research conducted by researchers from Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (Danforth Center) and the USDA Agricultural Research Service uncovered an important role played by malic enzyme in enhancing soybean oil production. Malic enzyme is crucial in central carbon metabolism, the set of chemical reactions inside cells that are needed for a cell to grow and function properly. Malic enzyme provides the conduit between two important metabolite nodes in central metabolism and can impact carbon allocation to boost oil production. The researchers found that enhancing malic enzyme activity also increased soybean seed oil levels and altered the fatty acid profile within the bean. These findings could be important for developing sustainable green fuels and petroleum replacements.
This research on malic enzyme's role in carbon partitioning and central metabolism was the first proof in plants that altering this step could enhance lipids. The research team plans to further avenues for enhancing soybean oil production, such as crossing malic enzyme-modified soybean lines with other lines engineered to boost oil production, potentially unlocking further gains in lipid production.