Time-dependent transcriptome profile of genes involved in triacylglycerol (TAG) and polyunsaturated fatty acid synthesis in Nannochloropsis gaditana during nitrogen starvation

Jorijn H. Janssen, Jacco Spoelder, Jasper J. Koehorst, Peter J. Schaap, René H. Wijffels, Maria J. Barbosa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this research, the gene expression of genes involved in lipid metabolism of the eustigmatophyte alga Nannochloropsis gaditana was measured by transcriptomic data. This microalga can be used as a source of triacylglycerol (TAG) and the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Insight in TAG and EPA production and regulation are needed to improve their productivity. Nitrogen starvation induces TAG accumulation in N. gaditana. Previous research showed that during nitrogen starvation, EPA was translocated from the polar lipids to TAG and de novo synthesized in N. gaditana. Therefore, the expression levels of genes involved in fatty acid translocation and de novo TAG synthesis were measured. Furthermore, the genes involved in de novo EPA synthesis such as elongases and desaturases were studied. The expression levels were measured during the first hours of nitrogen starvation and the subsequent period of 14 days. One phospholipid:diacylglycerol acyltransferase (PDAT) gene involved in translocation of fatty acids from membrane lipids to TAG was upregulated. In addition, several lipases were upregulated, suggesting that these enzymes might be responsible for the translocation of EPA to TAG. Most desaturases and elongases involved in de novo EPA synthesis were downregulated during nitrogen starvation, except for Δ9 desaturase which was upregulated. This upregulation correlates with the increase in oleic acid. Due to the presence of many hypothetical genes, improvement in annotation is needed to increase our understanding of these pathways and their regulation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Phycology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jan 2020



  • Microalgae
  • Nannochloropsis gaditana
  • Nitrogen starvation
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Transcriptome
  • Triacylglycerol

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