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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2011 Jul 8;410(3):484-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2011.06.003. Epub 2011 Jun 7.

Delta-6 desaturase from borage converts linoleic acid to gamma-linolenic acid in HEK293 cells.

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Transgenic and Stem Cell Core, Institute of Animal Science, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100193, PR China.


Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA, 18:3 n6) is an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid of the omega-6 family and is found to be effective in prevention and/or treatment of various health problems. In this study, we evaluated the possibility of increasing γ-linolenic acid contents in mammalian cells using the delta-6 gene from Borago officinalis. The borage Δ6-desaturase gene (sDelta-6) was codon-optimized and introduced into HEK293 cells by lipofectin transfection. Co-expression of GFP with sDelta-6 and RT-PCR analysis indicated that sDelta-6 could be expressed in mammalian cells. Subsequently, the heterologous expression of borage Δ6-desaturase was evaluated by fatty acid analysis. Total cellular lipid analysis of transformed cells fed with linoleic acid (LA 18:2 n6) as a substrate showed that the expression of sDelta-6 resulted in an 228-483% (p<0.05) increase of GLA when compared with that in the control cells. The highest conversion efficiency of LA into GLA in sDelta-6(+) cells was 6.9 times higher than that in the control group (11.59% vs. 1.69%; p<0.05). Our present work demonstrated that the sDelta-6 gene from borage could be functionally expressed in mammalian cells, and could convert LA into GLA. Furthermore, this study may pave the way to generate transgenic livestock that can synthesise GLA.

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