Oil body

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Not to be confused with Elaiosome, a multicellular structure found in seeds.

An oil body is a lipid-containing structure found in plant cells. The term can refer to at least two distinct kinds of structures in different kinds of plants.

Oil bodies in liverworts[edit]

Liverwort oil bodies are structures unique to liverworts that contain isoprenoid essential oils and are surrounded by a single membrane.[1] The size, shape, color, and number of oil bodies per cell is characteristic of certain species and may be used to identify these.

Oil bodies in vascular plants[edit]

Some species of vascular plants also contain intracellular structures called oil bodies. Vascular plant oil bodies consist mainly of triacylglycerols surrounded by a layer consisting of phospholipids and the protein oleosin.[2] These oil bodies occur largely in seeds but also occur in other plant parts, including leaves.[3]

Oil Bodies in Seeds[edit]

Oil Bodies are the organelle that has evolved to hold triglycerides in plant cells. They are therefore the principal store of chemical energy in oleagenous seeds. The structure and composition of plant seed oil bodies has been the subject of research from at least as far back as the 1980s, with several papers published in the 80s and 90s. Recent work, using updated techniques, has given a detailed molecular profile of oil bodies. It now seems that proteins out-number lipids on the surface of oil bodies, and that one protein in particular, called oleosin, dominates.[4] The lipid and protein fractions of oil bodies are remarkable because they maintain a coherent monolayer over a wide temperature and hydration range.


Microscopic views of liverwort cells, showing a variety of oil body shapes and arrangements.


  1. ^ Suire et al. Cellular Localization of Isoprenoid Biosynthetic Enzymes in Marchantia polymorpha. Uncovering a New Role of Oil Bodies. Plant Physiology November 2000 vol. 124 no. 3 971-978. doi:10.1104/pp.124.3.971
  2. ^ Tzen & Huang. Surface structure and properties of plant seed oil bodies. Journal of Cell Biology 1992 vol. 117 no. 2 327-335 doi:10.1083/jcb.117.2.327
  3. ^ Lersten et al. Oil bodies in leaf mesophyll cells of angiosperms: overview and a selected survey. American Journal of Botany. 1 December 2006 vol. 93 no. 12 1731-1739. doi:10.3732/ajb.93.12.1731
  4. ^ Furse S, Liddell S, Ortori CA, Williams HE, Neylon DC, Scott DJ, Barrett DA, Gray DA (January 2013). "The lipidome and proteome of oil bodies from Helianthus annuus (common sunflower)". J. CHem. Biol. 6 (2): 63–76. doi:10.1007/s12154-012-0090-1. PMC 3606697Freely accessible. PMID 23532185.