Proteomic Analysis of the Oil Palm Fruit Mesocarp Reveals Elevated Oxidative Phosphorylation Activity is Critical for Increased Storage Oil Production

Palm oil is a highly versatile commodity with wide applications in the food, cosmetics, and biofuel industries. Storage oil in the oil palm mesocarp can make up a remarkable 80% of its dry mass, making it the oil crop with the richest oil content in the world. As such, there has been an ongoing interest in understanding the mechanism of oil production in oil palm fruits. To identify the proteome changes during oil palm fruit maturation and factors affecting oil yield in oil palm fruits, we examined the proteomic profiles of oil palm mesocarps at four developing stages – 12, 16, 18, and 22 weeks after pollination – by 8-plex iTRAQ labeling coupled to 2D-LC and MALDI-TOF/TOF MS. It was found that proteins from several important metabolic processes, including starch and sucrose metabolism, glycolysis, pentose phosphate shunt, fatty acid biosynthesis, and oxidative phosphorylation, were differentially expressed in a concerted manner. These increases led to an increase in carbon flux and a diversion of resources such as ATP and NADH that are required for lipid biosynthesis. The temporal proteome profiles between the high-oil-yielding (HY) and low-oil-yielding (LY) fruits also showed significant differences in the levels of proteins involved in the regulation of the TCA cycle and oxidative phosphorylation. In particular, the expression level of the β subunit of the ATP synthase complex (complex IV of the electron transport chain) was found to be increased during fruit maturation in HY but decreased in the LY during the fruit maturation. These results suggested that increased energy supply is necessary for augmented oil yield in the HY oil palm trees.