Dr. Jaworski is a plant biochemist who has been conducting research on plant oils and seed biology since 1972. In recent years, his lab has been using molecular tools to modify oil seeds to better understand how scientists can rationally engineer oil seeds for more oil for biofuels and industrial applications. He graduated from College of the Holy Cross in 1968 and received his Ph. D. from Purdue University in 1972. After 28 years on the faculty in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department of Miami University in Ohio, he moved to the Danforth Center in 2002.
RESEARCH TEAM |
My lab is conducting research to better understand how plants can be engineered to produce useful molecules.
Plants accumulate oil in their seeds to provide the energy and carbon necessary for a germinating seed to grow into a plant. While seeds from our familiar crops are rich in edible vegetable oils, nature has provided some seeds with a broad assortment of oil compositions, and some unusual oils may have useful industrial applications. A major focus of the Jaworski lab is to use biotechnology to explore the capacity of seeds to accumulate useful molecules, usually for non-food or industrial applications. Another area of focus in recent years is to explore ways to engineer seeds to make more oil for biofuels. With this research, the Jaworski lab is obtaining a basic understanding of pathways involved in plant lipid synthesis.
Summary of Current Research Projects.
Engineering oil composition for industrial applications: A key research initiative involves production in seeds of unusual fatty acids that could have uses in polymers, coating materials and lubricants. These include synthesis of unusual fatty acids, biodegradable plastics and alternative lipids. One of these projects involves the synthesis of terminal or w-hydroxy fatty acids. These fatty acids are unusual in nature but are produced in large quantities in the flower of a petunia. We have isolated from petunia the cytochrome P450 gene as well as other genes involved in hydroxy fatty acid synthesis and are expressing them in Arabidopsis seeds.
Increasing oil yield for biofuel applications: We are also engineering soybean and Camelina with genes for the synthesis of fatty acids in order to increase the amount of oil in the seeds. These seeds may help to provide additional feedstocks for Biodiesel and jet fuels.
Engineering seeds to synthesize biomaterials: We have targeted to seeds the genes for the synthesis of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), a biodegradable plastic. We are interested in understanding the consequence of diverting acetyl-CoA into PHA synthesis and away from other cellular metabolism such as fatty acid synthesis. This project is using Brassica juncea and Camelina sativa as target plants. In addition, we are attempting to synthesize wax esters in Brassica, Camelina and Arabidopsis. Long chain wax esters are a principal component of the seed oil from jojoba plants, but these desert plants produces only small quantities at considerable expense. To develop an alternative low cost source of wax esters, we are using the genes to synthesize wax esters from jojoba for production in seeds of transgenic plants.
Sphingolipid metabolism and function in plants: This research was supported by an NSF 2010 grant to scientists from five labs at four locations. The goal of the project is to characterize the biosynthetic pathway for sphingolipids and study their function in plants with altered sphingolipid composition. This project is directed by Research Scientist Jonathan Markham and is described in more detail on his website http://www.danforthcenter.org/markham
Technologies available for license: