Potential role of multiple carbon fixation pathways during lipid accumulation in Phaeodactylum tricornutum


BACKGROUND: Phaeodactylum tricornutum is a unicellular diatom in the class Bacillariophyceae. The full genome hasbeen sequenced (<30 Mb), and approximately 20 to 30% triacylglyceride (TAG) accumulation on a dry cell basis hasbeen reported under different growth conditions. To elucidate P. tricornutum gene expression profiles duringnutrient-deprivation and lipid-accumulation, cell cultures were grown with a nitrate to phosphate ratio of 20:1 (N:P)and whole-genome transcripts were monitored over time via RNA-sequence determination.RESULTS: The specific Nile Red (NR) fluorescence (NR fluorescence per cell) increased over time; however, theincrease in NR fluorescence was initiated before external nitrate was completely exhausted. Exogenous phosphatewas depleted before nitrate, and these results indicated that the depletion of exogenous phosphate might be anearly trigger for lipid accumulation that is magnified upon nitrate depletion. As expected, many of the genesassociated with nitrate and phosphate utilization were up-expressed. The diatom-specific cyclins cyc7 and cyc10were down-expressed during the nutrient-deplete state, and cyclin B1 was up-expressed during lipid-accumulationafter growth cessation. While many of the genes associated with the C3 pathway for photosynthetic carbonreduction were not significantly altered, genes involved in a putative C4 pathway for photosynthetic carbonassimilation were up-expressed as the cells depleted nitrate, phosphate, and exogenous dissolved inorganic carbon(DIC) levels. P. tricornutum has multiple, putative carbonic anhydrases, but only two were significantly up-expressed(2-fold and 4-fold) at the last time point when exogenous DIC levels had increased after the cessation of growth.Alternative pathways that could utilize HCO-3 were also suggested by the gene expression profiles (e.g., putativepropionyl-CoA and methylmalonyl-CoA decarboxylases).CONCLUSION: The results indicate that P. tricornutum continued carbon dioxide reduction when population growthwas arrested and different carbon-concentrating mechanisms were used dependent upon exogenous DIC levels.Based upon overall low gene expression levels for fatty acid synthesis, the results also suggest that the build-up ofprecursors to the acetyl-CoA carboxylases may play a more significant role in TAG synthesis rather than the actualenzyme levels of acetyl-CoA carboxylases per se. The presented insights into the types and timing of cellularresponses to inorganic carbon will help maximize photoautotrophic carbon flow to lipid accumulation.




Valenzuela J, Mazurie A, Carlson RP, Gerlach R, Cooksey KE, Peyton BM, Fields MW, "Potential role of multiple carbon fixation pathways during lipid accumulation in Phaeodactylum tricornutum," Biotechnology for Biofuels, June 2012 5(1):40
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