Topic 12.9 Utilization of Oil Reserves in Cotyledons

Topic 12.9 Utilization of Oil Reserves in Cotyledons

John Browse, Washington State University

Although the pathway for the mobilization of triacylglycerols has been best characterized in castor bean, it seems to be similar in the storage tissues of other oilseeds. However, not all seeds quantitatively convert fat to sugar. In castor bean, the endosperm degenerates after the fat and protein reserves are fully utilized. In many oilseeds—such as sunflower (Helianthus annuus), cotton (Gossipium hirsutum), and members of the squash family (Cucurbitaceae)—the cotyledons become green and photosynthesize after the food reserves are used up.

In these tissues only part of the stored lipid is converted to exported carbohydrate. Much of the lipid-derived carbon remains in the cotyledons, where it contributes to the synthesis of chloroplasts and other cellular structures. Acetyl-CoA is also used directly for the production of energy through respiration. As the greening process takes place, there is a transition in the peroxisome population of these cells: Some peroxisomes have fewer of the characteristics of glyoxysomes and more of leaf-type peroxisomes. Such a transition is in keeping with the decreased requirement for the breakdown of stored lipids and the increased need to metabolize the products of photorespiration as the tissue goes from a heterotrophic to a more autotrophic mode of metabolism.