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J Biol Chem. 2008 Aug 15;283(33):22352-62. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M802377200. Epub 2008 Jun 13.

Metabolic engineering of omega3-very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid production by an exclusively acyl-CoA-dependent pathway.

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  • 1Albrecht-von-Haller-Institut für Pflanzenwissenschaften, Abteilung Biochemie der Pflanze, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 11, D-37077 Göttingen, Germany.


omega3-Very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (VLCPUFA) are essential for human development and brain function and, thus, are indispensable components of the human diet. The current main source of VLCPUFAs is represented by ocean fish stocks, which are in severe decline, and the development of alternative, sustainable sources of VLCPUFAs is urgently required. Our research aims at exploiting the powerful infrastructure available for the large scale culture of oilseed crops, such as rapeseed, to produce VLCPUFAs such as eicosapentaenoic acid in transgenic plants. VLCPUFA biosynthesis requires repeated desaturation and repeated elongation of long chain fatty acid substrates. In previous experiments the production of eicosapentaenoic acid in transgenic plants was found to be limited by an unexpected bottleneck represented by the acyl exchange between the site of desaturation, endoplasmic reticulum-associated phospholipids, and the site of elongation, the cytosolic acyl-CoA pool. Here we report on the establishment of a coordinated, exclusively acyl-CoA-dependent pathway, which avoids the rate-limiting transesterification steps between the acyl lipids and the acyl-CoA pool during VLCPUFA biosynthesis. The pathway is defined by previously uncharacterized enzymes, encoded by cDNAs isolated from the microalga Mantoniella squamata. The conceptual enzymatic pathway was established and characterized first in yeast to provide proof-of-concept data for its feasibility and subsequently in seeds of Arabidopsis thaliana. The comparison of the acyl-CoA-dependent pathway with the known lipid-linked pathway for VLCPUFA biosynthesis showed that the acyl-CoA-dependent pathway circumvents the bottleneck of switching the Delta6-desaturated fatty acids between lipids and acyl-CoA in Arabidopsis seeds.

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