Protein-Rich Avocados May Inspire Bioenergy Solutions

New lipid droplet–associated proteins found in fruit’s oil-rich tissues.

Image courtesy of Nathan Gibbs via a Creative Commons license
Researchers have identified a new class of proteins in avocados that could lead to increased lipid content in potential bioenergy crops.

The Science

Lipid droplets (i.e., “oil bodies”) are found within the cells of all multicellular organisms and provide storage of high-energy carbon reserves. These subcellular organelles are well characterized in seeds but also occur in nearly all plant cells, although little is known about the proteins associated with nonseed lipid droplets.

The Impact

Identification of two such proteins in avocado further the understanding of subcellular processes involved with lipid metabolism. Results from this research will be useful in efforts to increase concentrations of energy-dense lipids in plants that may serve as bioenergy crops.


To elucidate the mechanisms involved in lipid droplet metabolism in nonseed plant tissues, a team of scientists used a multipronged approach to investigate lipid-associated proteins in the oil-rich tissues of avocado, a fruit widely used as a model system to study lipid synthesis. The University of North Texas researchers—in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center—identified a new class of lipid droplet–associated proteins in nonseed tissues. The new proteins are very similar to small rubber particle proteins found in rubber-producing plants and may be important to lipid particle binding and stabilization.


Kent D. Chapman
Department of Biological Sciences, Center for Plant Lipid Research, University of North Texas, Denton 76203


This work was supported by the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research (grant no. DE– FG02–09ER64812), DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (grant no. DE–FC02–07ER6449), and Hoblitzelle Foundation for the support of mass spectrometry imaging facilities.


Horn, P. J., et al. “Identification of a new class of lipid droplet-associated proteins in plants,” Plant Physiol. 162 (4), 1926–1936 (2013).  [DOI: 10.1104/pp.113.222455].

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