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J Exp Bot. 2015 Jul;66(13):3725-35. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erv166. Epub 2015 Apr 28.

Enhanced acetyl-CoA production is associated with increased triglyceride accumulation in the green alga Chlorella desiccata.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel
Biological Services Unit, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.
Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


Triglycerides (TAGs) from microalgae can be utilized as food supplements and for biodiesel production, but little is known about the regulation of their biosynthesis. This work aimed to test the relationship between acetyl-CoA (Ac-CoA) levels and TAG biosynthesis in green algae under nitrogen deprivation. A novel, highly sensitive liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) technique enabled us to determine the levels of Ac-CoA, malonyl-CoA, and unacetylated (free) CoA in green microalgae. A comparative study of three algal species that differ in TAG accumulation levels shows that during N starvation, Ac-CoA levels rapidly rise, preceding TAG accumulation in all tested species. The levels of Ac-CoA in the high TAG accumulator Chlorella desiccata exceed the levels in the moderate TAG accumulators Dunaliella tertiolecta and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Similarly, malonyl-CoA and free CoA levels also increase, but to lower extents. Calculated cellular concentrations of Ac-CoA are far lower than reported K mAc-CoA values of plastidic Ac-CoA carboxylase (ptACCase) in plants. Transcript level analysis of plastidic pyruvate dehydrogenase (ptPDH), the major chloroplastic Ac-CoA producer, revealed rapid induction in parallel with Ac-CoA accumulation in C. desiccata, but not in D. tertiolecta or C. reinhardtii. It is proposed that the capacity to accumulate high TAG levels in green algae critically depends on their ability to divert carbon flow towards Ac-CoA. This requires elevation of the chloroplastic CoA pool level and enhancement of Ac-CoA biosynthesis. These conclusions may have important implications for future genetic manipulation to enhance TAG biosynthesis in green algae.


Acetyl-CoA; Chlorella desiccata; Dunaliella tertiolecta; green algae; pyruvate dehydrogenase; triglycerides.

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