1. Although isolated spinach chloroplasts were almost entirely (greater than 99%) dependent on light for fatty acid synthesis, leaf discs were capable of fatty acid synthesis in the dark (up to 500nmol of 3H/h per mg of chlorophyll equivalent to approx. 400nmol of carbon/h per mg of chlorophyll), which represented 12-20% of the corresponding ‘light rates’. 2. Net fatty acid accumulation by greening maize leaves occurred largely or entirely during the light period. 3. There was a diurnal fluctuation in the proportions of C18 unsaturated fatty acids in the lipids of developing spinach leaves, where an increase in the concentration of oleate during the day and a subsequent decline at night was observed; a complementary change occurred in the concentration of alpha-linolenate. The rhythm is interpreted as reflecting the continuation of oleate and linoleate desaturation at high rates when oleate synthesis is markedly decreased at night. 4. Changes in the fatty acid composition of 3-sn-phosphatidylcholine accounted for at least 60% of the total decrease in oleate over the dark period. This result is consistent with suggestions that this lipid is the substrate for the leaf microsomal oleate desaturase and an intermediate in leaf glycerolipid biosynthesis.

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