PlantLink Researcher in the Spotlight – Ida Lager

Ida Lager is a researcher at the Department of Plant Breeding, SLU. She is one of the speakers at the upcoming PlantLink day.

What is currently on top of your research agenda?

We are working on understanding what determines the fatty acid composition in plant seed oil. Each plant species has its own fatty acid composition in its seed oil and the diversity is enormous with more than 300 hundred different fatty acids in different proportions. The function, mechanism and regulation for this diversity is still poorly understood. My research focuses on characterizing the enzymes involved in the seed oil synthesis.

-Tell us about your latest publication?

In the latest publication (DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2020.01144), we have characterized enzymes involved in seed oil synthesis from Camelina sativa, an ancient oil crop that easily can be transformed and engineered. Focus was on the final enzymes that determines the fatty acid composition in the oil and we studied both the acyl-acceptor and donor preferences of these enzymes.

-What led you into your particular field of research?

After my post-doc I started working in Professor Sten Stymne’s group in Alnarp and he showed me the marvellous world of plant lipid biochemistry.  Now, 11 years later, I still find lipid biochemistry an intriguing and exciting area of research and I very much enjoy the time I can spend in the lab.

-What are the implications of your research for the society?

Many fatty acids in seed oil are of interest for the chemical industry, as a replacement for fossil oil, but these unusual fatty acids only exist in wild plants that are not commercially grown. A solution to this problem would be to create genetically modified crops that can produce these unusual fatty acids in large amounts.  To achieve this, more basic research about the enzymes involved in seed oil synthesis is crucial.

-Finally, let´s say you got unlimited research funds; where would your research be five years from now?

 We will know more about the synthesis of different fatty acids in the seed oil and have a clearer picture about the roles of the different enzymes. What that picture will be I do not know. The results we get from the lab often surprise us and leads us into paths that we did not plan or expect. My dream goal would be to simulate regulation of seed oil biosynthesis in-silico in in such way that you would be able to pinpoint all the enzymatic steps needed to be changed in order for any given oil crop to be adopt any novel desired oil quality without yield penalties

Thank you Ida! We wish you the best of luck with your research.

(Photo: Private)