Storage triacylglycerols (TAG) in plant seeds are present in small discrete intracellular organelles called oil bodies. An oil body has a matrix of TAG, which is surrounded by phospholipids (PL) and alkaline proteins, termed oleosins. Oil bodies isolated from mature maize (Zea mays) embryos maintained their discreteness, but coalesced after treatment with trypsin but not with phospholipase A2 or C. Phospholipase A2 or C exerted its activity on oil bodies only after the exposed portion of oleosins had been removed by trypsin. Attempts were made to reconstitute oil bodies from their constituents. TAG, either extracted from oil bodies or of a 1:2 molar mixture of triolein and trilinolein, in a dilute buffer were sonicated to produce droplets of sizes similar to those of oil bodies; these droplets were unstable and coalesced rapidly. Addition of oil body PL or dioleoyl phosphatidylcholine, with or without charged stearylamine/stearic acid, or oleosins, to the medium before sonication provided limited stabilization effects to the TAG droplets. High stability was achieved only when the TAG were sonicated with both oil body PL (or dioleoyl phosphatidylcholine) and oleosins of proportions similar to or higher than those in the native oil bodies. These stabilized droplets were similar to the isolated oil bodies in chemical properties, and can be considered as reconstituted oil bodies. Reconstituted oil bodies were also produced from TAG of a 1:2 molar mixture of triolein and trilinolein, dioleoyl phosphatidylcholine, and oleosins from rice (Oryza sativa), wheat (Triticum aestivum), rapeseed (Brassica napus), soybean (Glycine max), or jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis). It is concluded that both oleosins and PL are required to stabilize the oil bodies and that oleosins prevent oil bodies from coalescing by providing steric hindrance. A structural model of an oil body is presented. The current findings on seed oil bodies could be extended to the intracellular storage lipid particles present in diverse organisms.

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