Brookhaven Lab's plant oil research
April 28, 2020
John Shanklin and Jantana Keereetaweep describe research on plant oils at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory
Understanding the principles underlying carbon capture, conversion, and storage in living systems and developing the capability to model, predict and optimize these processes in plants and microorganisms.
Crop plants, rich in carbon, constitute a major renewable source of food, fuel, and other products to fulfill the needs of society. Finding ways to increase the yield and diversity of products produced by plants could help meet the needs of an expanding world population. A major focus of the Biology Department is therefore to understand the biochemical principles underlying the capture, conversion, and storage of carbon in plant biomass, and develop the capability to model, predict, and optimize these processes. A second approach, based on genomic science, seeks to fill the knowledge gap that exists between plant genes and their function.
Understanding the links between specific genes and their functions can be used as a starting point for predictive modeling of plant biology. This goal requires learning the functions of approximately half of the genes shared by all plants. Right now, the functions of the proteins coded for by these genes are unknown or poorly understood. To fill in this essential knowledge quickly and efficiently, we are developing a high-throughput discovery pipeline—a unique capability for rapidly sampling and discovering the functions of these unknown genes exploiting a rapidly growing photosynthetic microorganism within the green plant lineage. These efforts will contribute to the Grand Challenge of “Enabling Predictive Biology.”