Stress-induced neutral lipid biosynthesis in microalgae — Molecular, cellular and physiological insights

Research paper by Krzysztof Zienkiewicz, Zhi-Yan Du, Wei Ma, Katharina Vollheyde, Christoph Benning

Indexed on: 18 Mar '16Published on: 13 Feb '16Published in: BBA Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids


Photosynthetic microalgae have promise as biofuel feedstock. Under certain conditions, they produce substantial amounts of neutral lipids, mainly in the form of triacylglycerols (TAGs), which can be converted to fuels. Much of our current knowledge on the genetic and molecular basis of algal neutral lipid metabolism derives mainly from studies of plants, i.e. seed tissues, and to a lesser extent from direct studies of algal lipid metabolism. Thus, the knowledge of TAG synthesis and the cellular trafficking of TAG precursors in algal cells is to a large extent based on genome predictions, and most aspects of TAG metabolism have yet to be experimentally verified. The biofuel prospects of microalgae have raised the interest in mechanistic studies of algal TAG biosynthesis in recent years and resulted in an increasing number of publications on lipid metabolism in microalgae. In this review we summarize the current findings on genetic, molecular and physiological studies of TAG accumulation in microalgae. Special emphasis is on the functional analysis of key genes involved in TAG synthesis, molecular mechanisms of regulation of TAG biosynthesis, as well as on possible mechanisms of lipid droplet formation in microalgal cells.

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