Wax Crystal-Sparse Leaf 4, encoding a β-ketoacyl-coenzyme A synthase 6, is involved in rice cuticular wax accumulation
Land plants secrete a layer of wax onto their aerial surfaces that is essential for survival in a terrestrial environment. This wax is composed of long-chain, aliphatic hydrocarbons derived from very-long-chain fatty acids (VLCFAs). Using the Arabidopsis expressed sequence tag database, we have identified a gene, designated CUT1, that encodes a VLCFA condensing enzyme required for cuticular wax production. Sense suppression of CUT1 in transgenic Arabidopsis plants results in waxless (eceriferum) stems and siliques as well as conditional male sterility. Scanning electron microscopy revealed that this was a severe waxless phenotype, because stems of CUT1-suppressed plants were completely devoid of wax crystals. Furthermore, chemical analyses of waxless plants demonstrated that the stem wax load was reduced to 6 to 7% of wild-type levels. This value is lower than that reported for any of the known eceriferum mutants. The severe waxless phenotype resulted from the downregulation of both the decarbonylation and acyl reduction wax biosynthetic pathways. This result indicates that CUT1 is involved in the production of VLCFA precursors used for the synthesis of all stem wax components in Arabidopsis. In CUT1-suppressed plants, the C24 chain-length wax components predominate, suggesting that CUT1 is required for elongation of C24 VLCFAs. The unique wax composition of CUT1-suppressed plants together with the fact that the location of CUT1 on the genetic map did not coincide with any of the known ECERIFERUM loci suggest that we have identified a novel gene involved in wax biosynthesis. CUT1 is currently the only known gene with a clearly established function in wax production.