Microsomal preparations from the developing cotyledons of safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) catalysed the acylation of sn-glycerol 3-phosphate in the presence of acyl-CoA. The resulting phosphatidate was further utilized in the synthesis of diacyl- and tri-acylglycerol by the reactions of the so-called ‘Kennedy pathway’ [Kennedy (1961) Fed. Proc. Fed. Am. Soc. Exp. Biol. 20, 934-940]. Diacylglycerol equilibrated with the phosphatidylcholine pool when glycerol backbone, with the associated acyl groups, flowed from phosphatidate to triacylglycerol. The formation of diacylglycerol from phosphatidate through the action of a phosphatidate phosphohydrolase (phosphatidase) was substantially inhibited by EDTA and, under these conditions, phosphatidate accumulated in the microsomal membranes. The inhibition of the phosphatidase by EDTA was alleviated by Mg2+. The presence of Mg2+ in all incubation mixtures stimulated quite considerably the synthesis of triacylglycerol in vitro. Microsomal preparations incubated with acyl-CoA, sn-glycerol 3-phosphate and EDTA synthesized sufficient phosphatidate for the reliable analysis of its intramolecular fatty acid distribution. In the presence of mixed acyl-CoA substrates the sn-glycerol 3-phosphate was acylated exclusively in position 1 with the saturated fatty acids, palmitate and stearate. The polyunsaturated fatty acid linoleate was, however, utilized largely in the acylation of position 2 of sn-glycerol 3-phosphate. The affinity of the enzymes involved in the acylation of positions 1 and 2 of sn-glycerol 3-phosphate for specific species of acyl-CoA therefore governs the non-random distribution of the different acyl groups in the seed triacylglycerols. The acylation of sn-glycerol 3-phosphate in position 1 with saturated acyl components also accounts for the presence of these groups in position 1 of sn-phosphatidylcholine through the equilibration of diacylglycerol with the phosphatidylcholine pool, which occurs when phosphatidate is utilized in the synthesis of triacylglycerol. These results add further credence to our previous proposals for the regulation of the acyl quality of the triacylglycerols that accumulate in developing oil seeds [Stymne & Stobart (1984) Biochem. J. 220, 481-488; Stobart & Stymne (1985) Planta 163, 119-125].

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