Engineering storage capacity for volatile sesquiterpenes in Nicotiana benthamiana leaves

Thierry L. Delatte*, Giulia Scaiola, Jamil Molenaar, Katyuce de Sousa Farias, Leticia Alves Gomes Albertti, Jacqueline Busscher, Francel Verstappen, Carlos Carollo, Harro Bouwmeester, Jules Beekwilder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Plants store volatile compounds in specialized organs. The properties of these storage organs prevent precarious evaporation and protect neighbouring tissues from cytotoxicity. Metabolic engineering of plants is often carried out in tissues such as leaf mesophyll cells, which are abundant and easily accessible by engineering tools. However, these tissues are not suitable for the storage of volatile and hydrophobic compound such as sesquiterpenes and engineered volatiles are often lost into the headspace. In this study, we show that the seeds of Arabidopsis thaliana, which naturally contain lipid bodies, accumulate sesquiterpenes upon engineered expression. Subsequently, storage of volatile sesquiterpenes was achieved in Nicotiana benthamiana leaf tissue, by introducing oleosin-coated lipid bodies through metabolic engineering. Hereto, different combinations of genes encoding diacylglycerol acyltransferases (DGATs), transcription factors (WRINKL1) and oleosins (OLE1), from the oil seed-producing species castor bean (Ricinus communis) and Arabidopsis, were assessed for their suitability to promote lipid body formation. Co-expression of α-bisabolol synthase with Arabidopsis DGAT1 and WRINKL1 and OLE1 from castor bean promoted storage of α-bisabolol in N. benthamiana mesophyll tissue more than 17-fold. A clear correlation was found between neutral lipids and storage of sesquiterpenes, using synthases for α-bisabolol, (E)-β-caryophyllene and α-barbatene. The co-localization of neutral lipids and α-bisabolol was shown using microscopy. This work demonstrates that lipid bodies can be used as intracellular storage compartment for hydrophobic sesquiterpenes, also in the vegetative parts of plants, creating the possibility to improve yields of metabolic engineering strategies in plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1997-2006
JournalPlant Biotechnology Journal
Issue number12
Early online date23 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Nicotiana benthamiana
  • Lipid bodies
  • Secondary metabolites
  • Sesquiterpene
  • Storage
  • Triacylglycerol


Dive into the research topics of 'Engineering storage capacity for volatile sesquiterpenes in Nicotiana benthamiana leaves'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this