Plants use fatty acids to synthesize acyl lipids for many different cellular, physiological, and defensive roles. These roles include the synthesis of essential membrane, storage, or surface lipids, as well as the production of various fatty acid-derived metabolites used for signaling or defense. Fatty acids are activated for metabolic processing via a thioester linkage to either coenzyme A or acyl carrier protein. Acyl synthetases metabolically activate fatty acids to their thioester forms, and acyl thioesterases deactivate fatty acyl thioesters to free fatty acids by hydrolysis. These two enzyme classes therefore play critical roles in lipid metabolism. This review highlights the surprisingly complex and varying roles of fatty acyl synthetases in plant lipid metabolism, including roles in the intracellular trafficking of fatty acids. This review also surveys the many specialized fatty acyl thioesterases characterized to date in plants, which produce a great diversity of fatty acid products in a tissue-specific manner. While some acyl thioesterases produce fatty acids that clearly play roles in plant-insect or plant-microbial interactions, most plant acyl thioesterases have yet to be fully characterized both in terms of their substrate specificities and their functions. The biotechnological applications of plant acyl thioesterases and synthetases are also discussed, as there is significant interest in these enzymes as catalysts for the sustainable production of fatty acids and their derivatives for industrial uses.

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Department of Biology

Kalinger, R.S. (Rebecca S.), Pulsifer, I.P. (Ian P.), Hepworth, S, & Rowland, O. (2020). Fatty Acyl Synthetases and Thioesterases in Plant Lipid Metabolism: Diverse Functions and Biotechnological Applications. Lipids. doi:10.1002/lipd.12226