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Mol Genet Genomics. 2003 May;269(2):290-8. Epub 2003 Mar 26.

Functional differentiation and selective inactivation of multiple Saccharomyces cerevisiae genes involved in very-long-chain fatty acid synthesis.

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  • 1Lehrstuhl für Biochemie, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Staudtstrasse 5, Germany.


While de novo fatty acid synthesis uses acetyl-CoA, fatty acid elongation uses longer-chain acyl-CoAs as primers. Several mutations that interfere with fatty acid elongation in yeast have already been described, suggesting that there may be different elongases for medium- and long-chain acyl-CoA primers. In the present study, an experimental approach is described that allows differential characterization of the various yeast elongases in vitro. Based on their characteristic primer specificities and product patterns, at least three different yeast elongases are defined. Elongase I extends C12-C16 fatty acyl-CoAs to C16-C18 fatty acids. Elongase II elongates palmitoyl-CoA and stearoyl-CoA up to C22 fatty acids, and elongase III synthesizes 20-26-carbon fatty acids from C18-CoA primers. Elongases I, II and III are specifically inactivated in, respectively, elo1, elo2 and elo3 mutants. Elongases II and III share the same 3-ketoacyl reductase, which is encoded by the YBR159w gene. Inactivation of YBR159w inhibits in vitro fatty acid elongation after the first condensation reaction. Although in vitro elongase activity is absent, the mutant nevertheless contains 10-30% of normal VLCFA levels. On the basis of this finding, an additional elongating activity is inferred to be present in vivo. ybr159Delta cells show synthetic lethality in the presence of cerulenin, which inactivates fatty acid synthase. An involvement of FAS in VLCFA synthesis may account for these findings, but remains to be demonstrated directly. Alternatively, a vital role for C18 and C20 hydroxyacids, which are dramatically overproduced in ybr159Delta cells, may be postulated.

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