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Functional characterization reveals a diverse array of metazoan fatty acid biosynthesis genes
Boyen, J.; Ribes-Navarro, A.; Kabeya, N.; Monroig, Ó.; Rigaux, A.; Fink, P.; Hablützel, P.I.; Navarro, J.C.; De Troch, M. (2023). Functional characterization reveals a diverse array of metazoan fatty acid biosynthesis genes. Mol. Ecol. 32(4): 970-982. https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/mec.16808
In: Molecular Ecology. Blackwell: Oxford. ISSN 0962-1083; e-ISSN 1365-294X, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Boyen, J., more
  • Ribes-Navarro, A.
  • Kabeya, N.
  • Monroig, Ó.
  • Rigaux, A., more
  • Fink, P.
  • Hablützel, P.I., more
  • Navarro, J.C.
  • De Troch, M., more

    Long-chain (≥C20) polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) are physiologically important fatty acids for most animals, including humans. Although most LC-PUFA production occurs in aquatic primary producers such as microalgae, recent research indicates the ability of certain groups of (mainly marine) invertebrates for endogenous LC-PUFA biosynthesis and/or bioconversion from dietary precursors. The genetic pathways for and mechanisms behind LC-PUFA biosynthesis remain unknown in many invertebrates to date, especially in non-model species. However, the numerous genomic and transcriptomic resources currently available can contribute to our knowledge of the LC-PUFA biosynthetic capabilities of metazoans. Within our previously generated transcriptome of the benthic harpacticoid copepod Platychelipus littoralis, we detected expression of one methyl-end desaturase, one front-end desaturase, and seven elongases, key enzymes responsible for LC-PUFA biosynthesis. To demonstrate their functionality, we characterized eight of them using heterologous expression in yeast. The P. littoralis methyl-end desaturase has Δ15/17/19 desaturation activity, enabling biosynthesis of α-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from 18:2 n−6, 20:4 n−6 and 22:5 n−6, respectively. Its front-end desaturase has Δ4 desaturation activity from 22:5 n−3 to DHA, implying that P. littoralis has multiple pathways to produce this physiologically important fatty acid. All studied P. littoralis elongases possess varying degrees of elongation activity for saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, producing aliphatic hydrocarbon chains with lengths of up to 30 carbons. Our investigation revealed a functionally diverse range of fatty acid biosynthesis genes in copepods, which highlights the need to scrutinize the role that primary consumers could perform in providing essential nutrients to upper trophic levels.

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