Fatty alcohols play a variety of biological roles in all kingdoms of life. Fatty acyl reductase (FAR) enzymes catalyze the reduction of fatty acyl-coenzyme A (CoA) or fatty acyl-acyl carrier protein (ACP) substrates to primary fatty alcohols. FAR enzymes have distinct substrate specificities with regard to chain length and degree of saturation. FAR5 (At3g44550) and FAR8 (At3g44560) from Arabidopsis thaliana are 85% identical at the amino acid level and are of equal length, but possess distinct specificities for 18:0 or 16:0 fatty acyl chain length, respectively. We used Saccharomyces
cerevisiae as a heterologous expression system to assess FAR substrate specificity determinants. We identified individual amino acids that affect protein levels or 16:0-CoA versus 18:0-CoA specificity by expressing in yeast FAR5 and FAR8 domain-swap chimeras and site-specific mutants.