Plant seed database offers industry lipid profiling promise

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Seed database offers lipid profile promise

Related tags Fatty acids Fatty acid

A database that offers industry and academics a wealth of data on plant seed lipid profiles could help speed up research and innovation within the food and nutrition industry.

The Seed Oil Fatty Acids (SOFA) database contains data about the lipidomic profile of seeds from thousands of wild plants that have been collected and collated from the academic literature over a period of more than 40 years.

The database, managed by Dr Bertrand Matthäus, contains information on tocopherol, sterol and TAG composition of plant seeds – in addition to providing data on other physical and chemical characteristics, including density and refraction index.

Writing in the European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology, Dr Matthäus  - based at the Max Rubner-Institut, Germany – notes that the database contains around 580 different fatty acid structures, and approximately 130,000 individual percentage data for fatty acids occurring in the seeds of more than 7,000 plants.

 “I think that scientists from many different disciplines such as chemistry, food chemistry, biochemistry, botany, plant breeding, biology or plant genetics and nutritionists from various institutions will use the database,” ​writes Matthäus.

“SOFA will make their work easier and more successful, because without SOFA the huge amount of information about the fatty acid composition of plant seeds would have to be collected from the literature, which is a very time-consuming and labour-intensive task.”


The SOFA database has existed for a number of years, and was freely available online until 2008 – when it was taken down for major revamping and restructuring work.

Now, the resource is freely available again, says Matthäus, who notes that it is possible to search for fatty acids sterols, tocopherols and TAGs, in addition to other parameters such as oil content and refraction index.

The expert noted that plants seeds are rich sources of various lipidic compounds including fatty acids, tocopherols, triacylglyceriols, phospholipids, sphingolipids and sterols.

“Depending on the plant these constituents are present in different proportions in the seeds,”​ he explained, suggesting that the database will provide opportunities for academics and industry researchers working in food, nutrition, pharmaceuticals, in addition to other industries.

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