Mutations in a Δ 9–Stearoyl-ACP-Desaturase gene are associated with enhanced stearic acid levels in soybean seeds
Stearic acid (18:0) is typically a minor component of soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] oil, accounting for only 2 to 4% of the total fatty acid content. Increasing stearic acid levels of soybean oil would lead to enhanced oxidative stability, potentially reducing the need for hydrogenation, a process leading to the formation of undesirable trans fatty acids. Although mutagenesis strategies have been successful in developing soybean germplasm with elevated 18:0 levels in the seed oil, the specific gene mutations responsible for this phenotype were not known. We report a newly identified soybean gene, designated SACPD-C, that encodes a unique isoform of 9–stearoyl-ACP-desaturase, the enzyme responsible for converting stearic acid to oleic acid (18:1). High levels of SACPD-C transcript were only detected in developing seed tissue, suggesting that the encoded desaturase functions to enhance oleic acid biosynthetic capacity as the immature seed is actively engaged in triacylglycerol production and storage. The participation of SACPD-C in storage triacylglycerol synthesis is further supported by the observation of mutations in this gene in two independent sources of elevated 18:0 soybean germplasm, A6 (30% 18:0) and FAM94-41 (9% 18:0). A molecular marker diagnostic for the FAM94-41 SACPD-C gene mutation strictly associates with the elevated 18:0 phenotype in a segregating population, and could thus serve as a useful tool in the development of cultivars with oils possessing enhanced oxidative stability.