The effect of 2E,4E-decadienal on lipid-related gene expression in Phaeodactylum tricornutum
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Microalgae have been proposed as a potential feedstock for biofuel production, and as a result, interest in the biology of these organisms has intensified. These organisms also synthesize lipids that are vital to human health and nutrition. Stress has been shown to have an effect on lipid composition and gene expression in microalgae, but many studies have focused on the effects of abiotic stressors. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of biotic stress on lipid-related gene expression in Phaeodactylum tricornutum, a model species of microalgae. The source of biotic stress used in this study was 2E,4E/Z-decadienal, a diatom-derived oxylipin that has been shown to function as a stress signal among diatoms. Real-time RT-qPCR analysis revealed that expression of a patatin-like phospholipase was significantly decreased in decadienal-treated cultures as compared to a solvent control. The expression of a delta-9 desaturase gene believed to be responsible for production of 16:1 fatty acids was increased by a factor of 12. FabI, a gene involved in fatty acid biosynthesis, and PtD5a, which codes for an ER-localized desaturase, were both down-regulated in cells exposed to decadienal. However, changes in expression were only shown to be significant for the patatin-like phospholipase gene. Increased expression of the delta-9 desaturase gene may be a protective mechanism against infection from pathogens, since 16:1 fatty acids have been shown to have antibacterial properties. Regulation of membrane desaturation may also serve to stabilize photosynthetic membranes during times of stress. The down-regulation of the phospholipase gene was surprising, since the release of fatty acids from membrane lipids for oxylipin production is a common response to stress. It is recommended that this experiment be improved upon and expanded in order to determine whether the results obtained are reproducible and how these changes in gene expression correlate with physiological effects.