Biochemistry, Department of


First Advisor

Edgar Cahoon

Date of this Version



A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Biochemistry, Under the Supervision of Professor Edgar Cahoon. Lincoln, Nebraska: August 2021

Copyright © 2021 Evan M. Updike


Plant oils are an important source of food, fuel, and feed in our society today. The oil found in the seeds of plants is composed almost entirely of triacylglycerol (TAG) molecules, which consist of three fatty acids esterified to a glycerol backbone. As crude oil supplies decline, vegetable oils are gaining traction as a renewable substitute to petroleum-based materials in fuels, lubricants, and specialty oleochemicals. However, as it currently stands vegetable oils do not possess the properties necessary to fill the void of a petroleum free world.

To address this problem, plant biotechnologists have done extensive work on genetic engineering the fatty acid biosynthetic pathway to produce designer oils that are specialized for nutritional or industrial use. However, the bottleneck seems to be the uptake of these specialized oils into TAG. To further investigate this problem, I have chosen to study fatty acid biosynthetic genes from the species Thunbergia laurifolia which naturally produces 90% petroselinic acid (18:1Δ6). This species was chosen because of the unusually high accumulation of one single fatty acid, therefore the hypothesis is that the enzymes involved in the pathway to produce this novel fatty acid are highly specific. In this study I successfully engineered camelina to produce ≥25% 18:1Δ6 using a specialized Δ6 desaturase, fatty acid thioesterase A, and lysophosphatidic acyltransferase from T. laurifolia.

Advisor: Edgar Cahoon