A high-throughput fatty acid profiling screen reveals novel variations in fatty acid biosynthesis in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and related algae

Erin L. Pflaster, Michael J. Schwabe, Joyanne Becker, Melissa S. Wilkinson, Ashley Parmer, Thomas E. Clemente, Edgar B. Cahoon, Wayne R. Riekhof

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7 Scopus citations


Analysis of fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs) by gas chromatography (GC) is a common technique for the quantitative and qualitative analysis of acyl lipids. Methods for FAME preparation are typically time-consuming and labor-intensive and require multiple transfers of reagents and products between reaction tubes and autosampler vials. In order to increase throughput and lower the time and materials costs required for FAME preparation prior to GC analysis, we have developed a method in which 10-to-20-mg samples of microbial biomass are transferred to standard GC autosampler vials, transesterified using an emulsion of methanolic trimethylsulfonium hydroxide and hexane, and analyzed directly by GC without further sample handling. This method gives results that are essentially identical to those obtained by the more labor- and material-intensive FAME preparation methods, such as transmethylation with methanolic HCl. We applied this method to the screening of laboratory and environmental isolates of the green alga Chlamydomonas for variations in fatty acid composition. This screening method facilitated two novel discoveries. First, we identified a common laboratory strain of C. reinhardtii, CC-620, completely lacking all co-3 fatty acids normally found in this organism and showed that this strain contains an inactivating mutation in the CrFAD7 gene, encoding the sole co-3 desaturase activity in this organism. Second, we showed that some species of Chlamydomonas make A6-unsatu-rated polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) rather than the A5 species normally made by the previously characterized laboratory strains of Chlamydomonas, suggesting that there is species-specific variation in the regiospecificity and substrate selectivity of front-end desaturases in this algal genus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1431-1438
Number of pages8
JournalEukaryotic Cell
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology

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