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Microalgae, due to their huge taxonomic and metabolic diversity, have been shown to be a valuable and eco-friendly source of bioactive natural products. The increasing number of genomic and transcriptomic data will give a great boost for the study of metabolic pathways involved in the synthesis of bioactive compounds. In this study, we analyzed the presence of the enzymes involved in the synthesis of monogalactosyldiacylglycerols (MGDGs) and sulfoquinovosyldiacylglycerols (SQDG). Both compounds have important biological properties. MGDGs present both anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activities while SQDGs present immunostimulatory activities and inhibit the enzyme glutaminyl cyclase, which is involved in Alzheimer's disease. The Ocean Global Atlas (OGA) database and the Marine Microbial Eukaryotic Transcriptome Sequencing Project (MMETSP) were used to search MGDG synthase (MGD), UDP-sulfoquinovose synthase (SQD1), and sulfoquinovosyltransferase (SQD2) sequences along microalgal taxa. In silico 3D prediction analyses for the three enzymes were performed by Phyre2 server, while binding site predictions were performed by the COACH server. The analyzed enzymes are distributed across different taxa, which confirms the importance for microalgae of these two pathways for thylakoid physiology. MGD genes have been found across almost all analyzed taxa and can be separated in two different groups, similarly to terrestrial plant MGD. SQD1 and SQD2 genes are widely distributed along the analyzed taxa in a similar way to MGD genes with some exceptions. For Pinguiophyceae, Raphidophyceae, and Synurophyceae, only sequences coding for MGDG were found. On the contrary, sequences assigned to Ciliophora and Eustigmatophyceae were exclusively corresponding to SQD1 and SQD2. This study reports, for the first time, the presence/absence of these enzymes in available microalgal transcriptomes, which gives new insights on microalgal physiology and possible biotechnological applications for the production of bioactive lipids.


Gennaro Riccio, Daniele De Luca, Chiara Lauritano. Monogalactosyldiacylglycerol and Sulfolipid Synthesis in Microalgae. Marine drugs. 2020 May 01;18(5)

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PMID: 32370033

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