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Metabolic engineering of Phaeodactylum tricornutum for the enhanced accumulation of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids

Hamilton, Mary L., Haslam, Richard P., Napier, Johnathan A., Sayanova, Olga
Metabolic engineering 2014 v.22 pp. 3-9
Phaeodactylum tricornutum, biochemical pathways, docosahexaenoic acid, fatty acid composition, genetically modified organisms, heterologous gene expression, long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, metabolic engineering, microalgae, triacylglycerols
We have engineered the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum to accumulate the high value omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). This was achieved by the generation of transgenic strains in which the Δ5-elongase from the picoalga Ostreococcus tauri was expressed to augment the endogenous fatty acid biosynthetic pathway. Expression of the heterologous elongase resulted in an eight-fold increase in docosahexaenoic acid content, representing a marked and valuable change in the fatty acid profile of this microalga. Importantly, DHA was shown to accumulate in triacylglycerols, with several novel triacylglycerol species being detected in the transgenic strains. In a second iteration, co-expression of an acyl-CoA-dependent Δ6-desaturase with the Δ5-elongase further increased DHA levels. Together, this demonstrates for the first time the potential of using iterative metabolic engineering to optimise omega-3 content in algae.