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Phytochemistry. 2007 Mar;68(6):785-96. Epub 2007 Feb 8.

Isolation and characterization of genes from the marine microalga Pavlova salina encoding three front-end desaturases involved in docosahexaenoic acid biosynthesis.

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  • 1Food Futures National Research Flagship, CSIRO Plant Industry, GPO Box 1600, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.


The marine microalga Pavlova salina produces lipids containing approximately 50% omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Three cDNA sequences, designated PsD4Des, PsD5Des, PsD8Des, were isolated from P. salina and shown to encode three front-end desaturases with Delta4, Delta5 and Delta8 specificity, respectively. Southern analysis indicated that the P. salina genome contained single copies of all three front-end fatty acid desaturase genes. When grown at three different temperatures, analysis of fatty acid profiles indicated P. salina desaturation conversions occurred with greater than 95% efficiency. Real-Time PCR revealed that expression of PsD8Des was higher than for the other two genes under normal growth conditions, while PsD5Des had the lowest expression level. The deduced amino acid sequences from all three genes contained three conserved histidine boxes and a cytochrome b(5) domain. Sequence alignment showed that the three genes were homologous to corresponding desaturases from other microalgae and fungi. The predicted activities of these three front-end desaturases leading to the synthesis of LC-PUFA were also confirmed in yeast and in higher plants.

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