Plant Lipid Droplets


Plant lipid droplets are small, lipid‐rich organelles found in most cell types. Their function as an energy store for postgerminative seedling establishment has been well documented in seeds; however, their function in other tissue types is not so obvious. There is now a growing body of evidence to suggest that lipid droplets are important for biotic and abiotic stress responses in vegetative tissues, and recent work has shown that they are also used as energy stores in those tissues. Biogenesis and degradation of these organelles is currently of great interest to the biotechnology sector, as engineering of these processes can be used to enhance and alter lipid production for applications such as human and animal nutrition, drug delivery and recombinant protein production.

Key Concepts

  • Lipid droplets are found in all plant organs.
  • Lipid droplet coat proteins are involved in the biogenesis, degradation and function of plant lipid droplets.
  • Both seed and nonseed tissues use lipid droplets as an energy store.
  • Lipid droplets are important for plant stress signalling in vegetative tissues.
  • Plant lipid metabolism is of key interest to the biotechnology industry.

Keywords: lipid droplet; oil body; triacylglycerol; storage lipid mobilisation; oleosin; caleosin

Figure 1. Lipid droplet biogenesis and degradation. Nascent LDs bud off from the ER into the cytoplasm. In order to mobilise the TAG core, the coat proteins are first removed, allowing access for the TAG lipases. For full details, see the main text.
Figure 2. Two stomata on detached epidermis of a leaf from a 17‐day‐old Arabidopsis seedling. (a) Brightfield image. (b) Confocal image showing LD stained with Nile Red (magenta) and peroxisomes tagged with CFP (blue). (c) Autofluorescence, mostly showing chloroplasts. (d) Overlay. Scale bar = 10 µm.


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Further Reading

Barbosa AD and Siniossoglou S (2017) Function of lipid droplet‐organelle interactions in lipid homeostasis. BBA – Molecular Cell Research 1864: 1459–1468.

Frandsen GI, Mundy J and Tzen JTC (2001) Oil bodies and their associated proteins, oleosin and caleosin. Physiologia Plantarum 112: 301–307.

Kelly AA and Feussner I (2016) Oil is on the agenda: lipid turnover in higher plants. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1861: 1253–1268.

Murphy DJ, Hernández‐Pinzón I and Patel K (2001) Role of lipid bodies and lipid‐body proteins in seeds and other tissues. Journal of Plant Physiology 158: 471–478.

Schuldiner M and Bohnert M (2017) A different kind of love – lipid droplet contact sites. BBA – Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids 1862: 1188–1196.

Song Y, Wang XD and Rose RJ (2017) Oil body biogenesis and biotechnology in legume seeds. Plant Cell Reports 36: 1519–1532.

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How to Cite close
McLachlan, Deirdre H(Apr 2018) Plant Lipid Droplets. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0027976]