Enhancing LC-PUFA production in Thalassiosira pseudonana by overexpressing the endogenous fatty acid elongase genes

Cook, O, Hildebrand M.  2016.  Enhancing LC-PUFA production in Thalassiosira pseudonana by overexpressing the endogenous fatty acid elongase genes. Journal of Applied Phycology. 28:897-905.

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biosynthesis, cyclotella-cryptica, desaturases, Elongase, functional-characterization, identification, learning-ability, lipid-composition, Metabolic engineering, metabolism, microalga, Omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, phaeodactylum-tricornutum, pseudonana, Thalassiosira


The health beneficial omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are naturally synthesized by diatoms through consecutive steps of fatty acid elongase and desaturase enzymes. In Thalassiosira pseudonana, these fatty acids constitute about 10-20 % of the total fatty acids, with EPA accumulation being five to ten times higher than DHA. In order to identify the subcellular localization of enzymes in the pathway of LC-PUFA biosynthesis in T. pseudonana and to manipulate the production of EPA and DHA, we generated constructs for overexpressing each of the T. pseudonana long-chain fatty acid elongase genes. Full-length proteins were fused to GFP, and transgenic lines were generated. In addition, overexpressed native proteins with no GFP fusion were tested. The subcellular localization of each elongase protein was determined. We then examined the total amount of lipids and analyzed the fatty acid profile in each of the transgenic lines compared to wild type. Lines with overexpressed elongases showed an increase of up to 1.4-fold in EPA and up to 4.5-fold in DHA, and the type of fatty acid that was increased (EPA vs. DHA) depended on the type of elongase that was overexpressed. This data informs future metabolic engineering approaches to further improve EPA and DHA content in diatoms.