Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)


Biomedical Sciences

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Aruna Kilaru

Committee Members

Cecilia McIntosh, Jay Shockey, Jonathan M. Peterson, Antonio E. Rusiñol


Triacylglycerols (TAG) or storage oils in plants are utilized by humans for nutrition, production of biomaterials and fuels. Since nonseed tissues comprise the bulk biomass, it is pertinent to understand how to improve their TAG content. Typically, the final step in TAG biosynthesis is catalyzed by diacylglycerol (DAG) acyltransferases (DGAT) and/or phospholipid: diacylglycerol acyltransferases (PDAT), which also determine the content and composition of TAG. Besides enzymatic regulation of TAG synthesis, transcription factors such as WRINKLED1 (WRI1) play a critical role during fatty acid synthesis. In this study, mesocarp of Persea americana, with > 60% TAG by dry weight and oleic acid as the major constituent was used as a model system to explore TAG synthesis in nonseed tissues. Based on the transcriptome data of avocado, it was hypothesized that both DGAT and PDAT are likely to catalyze the conversion of DAG to TAG, and orthologs of WRI1 transcription factors regulate fatty acid biosynthesis. Here, with comprehensive in silico analyses, putative PamDGAT1 and 2 (Pam; Persea americana), PamPDAT1, and PamWRI1 and 2 were identified. When acyltransferases were expressed into TAG-deficient mutant yeast strain (H1246), only DGAT1 restored TAG synthesis capacity, with a preference for oleic acid. However, in planta, when transiently expressed in Nicotiana benthamiana leaves, PamDGAT1, PamPDAT1, PamWRI1, and PamWRI2 increased lipid contents, PamDGAT2 remained inactive. The data reveals that putative PamDGAT1, PamPDAT1 are functional and preferred acyltransferases in avocado and both PamWRI1 and 2 regulate fatty acid synthesis. In conclusion, while nonseed tissue of a basal angiosperm has certain distinct regulatory features, DAG to TAG conversion remains highly conserved.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.