Scientists Produce Designer Triacylglycerols in Industrial Microalgae


Scientists produced designer triacylglycerols in industrial microalgae, according to a report published on January 2, 2019.

The main constituents of vegetable oil in plants and fats in animals and humans are the molecules of triacylglycerol (TAG). The health benefit of TAG molecules (TAGs) is dependent on which fatty acid FA comprise the molecule. There is no method available to customize FA composition of TGAs and create designer TGAs that has tailored health benefits. A research team led by Prof. XU Jian from the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology (QIBEBT), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), discovered two novel diacylglyceryl transferases (DGAT2s) that are capable of attaching linoleic acid (LA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), respectively, to the glycerol backbone to form TAGs.

The ratio of the specialist enzymes in the cell were modulated to create a strain bank of the industrial oleaginous microalga Nannochloropsis oceanica. The proportions of LA and EPA in TAGs varied by 18.7- and 34.7-fold, respectively. Both these enzymes are essential fatty acids for human metabolism, however, human genomes are not capable of encoding the enzymes that directly synthesize these fatty acids. Therefore, LA and EPA should be consumed by humans through plant or animal TAGs. Therefore, the novel DGATs that selectively assemble LA and EPA into microalgal TAGs are found to be the foundation for producing designer TAGs on a larger scale, for tailored or even personalized health benefits.


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Cynthia Carrier is a graduate of Texas A&M, where she played volleyball and annoyed a lot of professors. Now as Plains Gazette's entertainment and Lifestyle Editor, she enjoys writing about delicious BBQ, outrageous style trends and all things Texas.