Biosynthesis of Triacylglycerols (TAGs) in plants and algae

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Alexandro Cagliari
Rogerio Margis
Felipe dos Santos Maraschin
Andreia Carina Turchetto-Zolet
Guilherme Loss
Marcia Margis-Pinheiro *
(*) Corresponding Author:
Marcia Margis-Pinheiro |


Triacylglycerols (TAGs), which consist of three fatty acids bound to a glycerol backbone, are major storage lipids that accumulate in developing seeds, flower petals, pollen grains, and fruits of innumerous plant species. These storage lipids are of great nutritional and nutraceutical value and, thus, are a common source of edible oils for human consumption and industrial purposes. Two metabolic pathways for the production of TAGs have been clarified: an acyl¬ CoA-dependent pathway and an acyl-CoA-independent pathway. Lipid metabolism, specially the pathways to fatty acids and TAG biosynthesis, is relatively well understood in plants, but poorly known in algae. It is generally accepted that the basic pathways of fatty acid and TAG biosynthesis in algae are analogous to those of higher plants. However, unlike higher plants where individual classes of lipids may be synthesized and localized in a specific cell, tissue or organ, the complete pathway, from carbon dioxide fixation to TAG synthesis and sequestration, takes place within a single algal cell. Another distinguishing feature of some algae is the large amounts of very long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (VLC- PUFAs) as major fatty acid components. Nowadays, the focus of attention in biotechnology is the isolation of novel fatty acid metabolizing genes, especially elongases and desaturases that are responsible for PUFAs synthesis, from different species of algae, and its transfer to plants. The aim is to boost the seed oil content and to generate desirable fatty acids in oilseed crops through genetic engineering approaches. This paper presents the current knowledge of the neutral storage lipids in plants and algae from fatty acid biosynthesis to TAG accumulation.

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