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A multi-omics approach to reveal cell-type-specific lipid metabolism in stomatal cells of bioenergy crops.

EMSL Project ID


Triacylglycerol (TAG) is a significant source of biofuel and industrial products but only accumulates to high levels in oilseed crops e.g. soybean and canola. Increasing demand is prompting efforts to engineer highly productive grasses (e.g. sugarcane and sorghum) to accumulate TAG in their vegetative tissue. Oilcane is a sugarcane genotype engineered to hyper-accumulate TAG for sustinabale aviation fuel (SAF). Stomata are pores on the leaf surface that regulate the fluxes of CO2 and water vapor between the leaf and the atmosphere that determine plant photosynthetic carbon gain and water use. Unfortunately, oilcane shows significant impairments in stomatal function that manifest as reduced stomatal opening, photosynthetic rate and growth. This impaired stomatal function conincided with the presence of multiple, large lipid droplets that occupy a significant fraction of the cellular volume of stomatal cells. This contrasts with wild-type, control plants where lipid droplets were discovered to be smaller and fewer in number. In general, there is a significant knowledge gap regarding the role that lipid metabolism plays in the specialized function of stomata.
Exploiting cutting-edge methods in transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolimics to understand specialized stomatal cells functions is difficult because stomata are sparsely distributed across the leaf surface. So, stomata make up a small percentage of cells in any bulk tissue sample and their omic signatures are likely to be washed out by other more abundant cell types.
This project will tune laser capture microdissection methods to harvest stomatal cells for multi-omics analysis in order to address three specific aims. Aim-1: Can we capture highly specified and sparse stomatal complexes on the leaf epidermis using laser capture microdissection? Aim-2: What are the transcriptomic, proteomic, and lipidomic signatures of stomatal cells that result in them being the only epidermal cells to contain lipid droplets? Aim-3: What alterations in stomatal omics profiles are associated with impaired stomatal function when sugarcane is bioengineered to hyper-accumulate TAG as a feedstock for SAF? Outcome-1: The establishment of laser capture microdissection for cell type-specific analysis of stomatal complexes in grasses. Outcome-2: A detailed multi-omics profile of wildtype sugarcane at dawn and how lipid mobilization aids stomatal function in the dark-light transition. Outcome-3: Understanding of how hyperaccumulation of TAG in oilcane affects the tight metabolic balance required for stomatal function at dawn and during the dark-to-light transition. Overall, these outcomes will advance the understanding of foundational stomatal biology and allow researchers to design biofuel crops for sustainable production of SAF.

Project Details

Project type
Exploratory Research
Start Date
End Date


Principal Investigator

Andrew Leakey
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Daniel Tejeda Lunn
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign