Engineered poplar for bioproduction of the triterpene squalene

Jacob D. Bibik, Abira Sahu, Boeun Kim, Faride Unda, Trine B. Andersen, Shawn D. Mansfield, Christos T. Maravelias, Thomas D. Sharkey, Björn R. Hamberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Building sustainable platforms to produce biofuels and specialty chemicals has become an increasingly important strategy to supplement and replace fossil fuels and petrochemical-derived products. Terpenoids are the most diverse class of natural products that have many commercial roles as specialty chemicals. Poplar is a fast growing, biomassdense bioenergy crop with many species known to produce large amounts of the hemiterpene isoprene, suggesting an inherent capacity to produce significant quantities of other terpenes. Here we aimed to engineer poplar with optimized pathways to produce squalene, a triterpene commonly used in cosmetic oils, a potential biofuel candidate, and the precursor to the further diversified classes of triterpenoids and sterols. The squalene production pathways were either re-targeted from the cytosol to plastids or co-produced with lipid droplets in the cytosol. Squalene and lipid droplet co-production appeared to be toxic, which we hypothesize to be due to disruption of adventitious root formation, suggesting a need for tissue specific production. Plastidial squalene production enabled up to 0.63 mg/g fresh weight in leaf tissue, which also resulted in reductions in isoprene emission and photosynthesis. These results were also studied through a technoeconomic analysis, providing further insight into developing poplar as a production host.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPlant Biotechnology Journal
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Biotechnology
  • Plant Science


  • Squalene
  • isoprene emission
  • lipid droplet scaffolding
  • photosynthesis
  • plastid targeting
  • technoeconomic analysis


Dive into the research topics of 'Engineered poplar for bioproduction of the triterpene squalene'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this