Scientists produce 'designer triacylglycerols' in industrial microalgae

January 2, 2019, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Producing designer triacylglycerol molecules with tailored PUFA profile in industrial microalgae. Credit: QIBEBT

Molecules of triacylglycerol (TAG), formed by attaching three molecules of fatty acid (FA) to a glycerol backbone, are the main constituents of vegetable oil in plants and fats in animals and humans. TAG plays an important role in cellular metabolism as a universal storage form and currency of energy, since its energy density is much greater than carbohydrates or proteins.

The health benefit of TAG molecules (TAGs) is dependent on which FA comprise the molecule. For example, (LA) can lower blood cholesterols and prevent atherosclerosis, while (EPA) can treat hypertension and inflammation. Can the FA composition of TAGs be customized to create "designer" TAGs that carry tailored health benefits?

The answer is yes. A led by Prof. XU Jian from the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology (QIBEBT), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), has discovered two novel diacylglyceryl transferases (DGAT2s) that preferentially attach LA and EPA, respectively, to the glycerol backbone to form TAGs.

By modulating the ratio of these specialist enzymes in the cell, a strain bank of the industrial oleaginous microalga Nannochloropsis oceanica was created where the proportions of LA and EPA in TAGs varied by 18.7- and 34.7-fold, respectively.

LA and EPA are both essential fatty acids for human metabolism, but human genomes do not encode the enzymes that directly synthesize these fatty acids. Therefore, humans have to intake LA and EPA via plant or animal TAGs.

The discovery of novel DGATs that selectively assemble LA and EPA into microalgal TAGs thus lays the foundation for producing on a large scale "designer TAGs," whether present in nature or not, for tailored or even personalized health benefits.

Explore further: Biofuel produced by microalgae

More information: Yi Xin et al, Biosynthesis of Triacylglycerol Molecules with Tailored PUFA Profile in Industrial Microalgae, Molecular Plant (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.molp.2018.12.007

Related Stories

Biofuel produced by microalgae

February 28, 2017

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology have identified unique lysophosphatidic acid acyltransferases as being the central enzymes for triacylglycerol synthesis by oleaginous alga Nannochloropsis, thus uncovering the ...

Omega -6 fatty acids do not promote low-grade inflammation

November 13, 2017

The higher the serum linoleic acid level, the lower the CRP, according to a new study from the University of Eastern Finland. Linoleic acid is the most common polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid. The findings were published ...

The skinny on fats

October 11, 2018

(HealthDay)—Even when you're trying to lose weight, you need some fat in your diet for good health. While fat in general has gotten a bad rap, some types of fat—particularly plant-based fats—are good for you in moderation.

Ovarian cancer cells hoard iron to fuel growth

August 15, 2018

An unexpected link between iron and fatty acids may be juicing the metabolism of ovarian cancer cells, report UConn Health researchers in the July 1 issue of OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology. The findings could suggest ...

Recommended for you

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.