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Research article2017Peer reviewedOpen access

Determination of Substrate Preferences for Desaturases and Elongases for Production of Docosahexaenoic Acid from Oleic Acid in Engineered Canola

Yilmaz, Jenny Lindberg; Lim, Ze Long; Beganovic, Mirela; Breazeale, Steven; Andre, Carl; Stymne, Sten; Vrinten, Patricia; Senger, Toralf


Production of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in plant seed oils has been pursued to improve availability of these omega-3 fatty acids that provide important human health benefits. Canola (Brassica napus), through the introduction of 10 enzymes, can convert oleic acid (OLA) into EPA and ultimately DHA through a pathway consisting of two elongation and five desaturation steps. Herein we present an assessment of the substrate specificity of the seven desaturases and three elongases that were introduced into canola by expressing individual proteins in yeast. In vivo feeding experiments were conducted with 14 potential fatty acid intermediates in an OLA to DHA pathway to determine the fatty acid substrate profiles for each enzyme. Membrane fractions were prepared from yeast expression strains and shown to contain active enzymes. The elongases, as expected, extended acyl-CoA substrates in the presence of malonyl-CoA. To distinguish between enzymes that desaturate CoA- and phosphatidylcholine-linked fatty acid substrates, we developed a novel in vitro method. We show that a delta-12 desaturase from Phytophthora sojae, an omega-3 desaturase from Phytophthora infestans and a delta-4 desaturase from Thraustochytrium sp., all prefer phosphatidylcholine-linked acyl substrates with comparatively low use of acyl-CoA substrates. To further validate our method, a delta-9 desaturase from Saccharomyces cerevisiae was confirmed to use acyl-CoA as substrate, but could not use phosphatidylcholine-linked substrates. The results and the assay methods presented herein will be useful in efforts to improve modeling of fatty acid metabolism and production of EPA and DHA in plants.


Lipid biochemistry; n-3 Fatty acids; Nutrition; Elongases; Desaturases; Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA); Genetic engineering; Phosphatidylcholine; Acyl-CoA

Published in

2017, Volume: 52, number: 3, pages: 207-222

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Genetics and Breeding

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