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Biological Sciences


Professor John Sedbrook

Mentor Department

Biological Sciences


The need for low-carbon-intensity biofuels to mitigate climate change is driving development of new oilseed crops which do not compete with food crops. One such crop is domesticated pennycress (e.g., variety CoverCressTM) derived from the weed Field Pennycress (Thlapsi arvense L.). Pennycress has extreme cold tolerance and a relatively short life cycle allowing it to fit in the offseason between corn and soybeans in the U.S. Midwest and other temperate regions. Domesticated pennycress varieties have been developed having reduced seed coat fiber content, low erucic acid seed oil content, and which produce over 1,500 pounds of seed per acre in the lower U.S. Midwest, yielding 65 gallons of oil and 1,200 pounds of meal per acre. To improve this new crop further, we are exploring ways to improve seed meal quality through reducing seed glucosinolate and sinapic acid content. Regarding reducing sinapic acid content, two genes in which we have generated mutations using CRISPR-Cas9 targeted mutagenesis are Ferulic Acid 5-Hydroxylase (F5H) and Reduced Epidermal Fluorescence 1 (REF1). Studies in rapeseed have shown that sinapate esters with sinapoylcholine (sinapine) contribute to the bittertaste, astringency, and dark color of seed products(Husken et al., 2005, Molecular Breeding). During the seed oil processing, sinapate esters gets oxidized and form complexes with proteins, thus lowering the digestibility of the meal. We found that pennycress f5h and ref1 single mutants produced seeds with substantially reduced amounts of sinapic acid. f5h and ref1 mutant plants grew indistinguishable from wild type suggesting that these loss-of-function mutations may be agronomically relevant. These and other data will be presented that explore genetic relationships between reductions in sinapate esters and pennycress seed meal quality.

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