TITLE Development of petroleum substitute through plant cell technology
(Joint Program to Promote Technological Development with the Private Sectors)

RITE-TSUKUBA NO.1 LABORATORY in Mitsui Plant Biotechnology Research Institute


 (1) Goal of technological development

Rising CO2 atmospheric levels could be controlled through development of a renewable alternative to fossil fuels. Plants are chemical factories which utilize solar energy to recycle atmospheric CO2 into various compounds, including hydrocarbons. Our aim was to develop technology useful for improving the hydrocarbon constituents in plant cells.

(2) Achievements

a) Gene affecting the accumulation of plant hydrocarbons

We created a mutant plant with altered accumulation of hydrocarbon consitutents and isolated the affected gene. This gene consists of a structural gene of about 4kb encoding the corresponding protein, and promoter of about 1 kb which controls how much of the protein is produced. The protein is presumed to be localized in the plasma membrane. Attempts to suppress expression of this gene through antisense techniques yielded no remarkable changes in hydrocarbon content. However, the deduced amino acid sequence is compatible with a role in hydrocarbon accumulation.

b) Isolation of gene affecting plant stature

A gene (ERECTA) affecting plant stature was isolated from a semi-dwarf mutant we created. This gene encodes a receptor kinase located in the plasma membrane. The erecta gene-encoded protein acts to adjust the extension of plant stems, most probably by transmitting relevant extracellular information into the cell.

c) Development of basic technology for plant gene isolation

Basic technology for gene isolation from plants was developed as both a prerequisite and a byproduct of this project. A P1 library and a set of RFLP markers which are necessary for positional cloning were developed. These resources are currently being used by the 'Arabidopsis genome initiative' project which is sequencing the Arabidopsis genome. In addition to these resources, we developed the 'TAIL-PCR' method, a technique for amplifying unknown sequence attached to known sequences. The technique is ame nable to automation, and particularly useful in repetitive applications characteristic of modern genome research. It's usefulness is not limited to plant gene research but generally applicable to animal and bacterial gene research, as well.