Fungal responsive fatty acid acetylenases occur widely in evolutionarily distant plant families

Edgar B. Cahoon, Judy A. Schnurr, Errol A. Huffman, Robert E. Minto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The fungal elicitor-induced ELI12 gene from parsley has been previously shown to encode a divergent form of the Δ12-oleic acid desaturase. In this report, we show that the ELI12 gene product is a fatty acid acetylenase or a triple-bond-forming enzyme. Expression of this enzyme in transgenic soybean seeds was accompanied by the accumulation of the Δ12-acetylenic fatty acids, crepenynic and dehydrocrepenynic acids. Using PCR with degenerate oligonucleotides, we also show that homologs of the ELI12 gene are present in other members of the Apiaceae family. In addition, cDNAs for divergent forms of the Δ12-oleic acid desaturase were detected among the expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from English ivy, an Araliaceae species, and sunflower, an Asteraceae species. As with the ELI12 gene, expression of these cDNAs in transgenic soybean embryos was accompanied by the accumulation of crepenynic and dehydrocrepenynic acids. Homologs of the sunflower acetylenase gene were also detected in other Asteraceae species, as revealed by PCR analysis of isolated genomic DNA. Results from Northern blot and EST analyses indicated that the expression of the sunflower gene, like ELI12, was induced by fungal elicitation. Overall, these results demonstrate that expressed genes for Δ12-fatty acid acetylenases occur in at least three plant families, and are responsive to fungal pathogenesis. Natural products derived from crepenynic and dehydrocrepenynic acids that display antifungal, insecticidal, and nematicidal properties are distributed through at least 15 plant families. The acetylenases described here provide probes for chemotaxonomists, and facilitate functional genomic and molecular investigations of these defensive mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)671-683
Number of pages13
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Acetylenase
  • Crepenynic acid
  • Desaturase
  • Fungal elicitation
  • Secondary metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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