Marine Biotechnology

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 171–185 | Cite as

A Novel Dietary Source of EPA and DHA: Metabolic Engineering of an Important Freshwater Species—Common Carp by fat1-Transgenesis

  • Xiaofan Zhang
  • Shaochen Pang
  • Chengjie Liu
  • Houpeng Wang
  • Ding Ye
  • Zuoyan Zhu
  • Yonghua SunEmail author
Original Article


Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), such as eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3, EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3, DHA), are essential for neural development and human health. The n-3 PUFAs are mainly obtained from marine fish by dietary intake. Freshwater fish species usually contain low level of n-3 PUFAs due to the lack of n-3 PUFAs in their food chain. In this study, we report on the substantial production of EPA and DHA in a globally important freshwater fish species, common carp (Cyprinus carpio). This was achieved by introducing an “all-fish” transgene CA:fat1 containing the fish codon-optimized omega-3 desaturase gene (fat1) driven by the common carp β-actin promoter (CA). Through a sperm sample screening method, we successfully generated fat1-positive F1 transgenic population with high efficiency. In F1 population, the muscle contents of ALA (18:3n-3), EPA and DHA were significantly increased when compared with non-transgenic siblings. Thereafter, four independent F2 heterozygous lines were obtained from 4 F1 transgenic males and a detailed comparison of fatty acids profile and growth performance was carried out for these 4 lines. All fat1-transgenic common carps from 4 lines showed an evident decrease in n-6 PUFA contents and a substantial increase in n-3 PUFA contents, among which line 4 stands out, showing a statistically significant increase in all 4 types of n-3 PUFAs including ALA (4.4-fold increase, p < 0.001), EPA (4.8-fold increase, p < 0.01), C22:5n-3 (DPA, 2.4-fold increase, p < 0.05), and DHA (1.9-fold increase, p < 0.05). Therefore, the line 4 was selected as the optimized breeding stock for further study, and the proximate nutrition composition and PUFA synthesis pathway were analyzed. Our study demonstrates that in the transgenic group, the muscular lipid content did not change, while fat accumulations in the internal organs and especially in the liver were significantly decreased as a result of hyperactivation of fatty acid oxidation process. Finally, we conclude that the “all-fish” CA:fat1-transgenic freshwater fish—common carp—can serve as a novel healthy dietary source of n3-PUFAs, especially EPA and DHA.


Omega-3 fatty acids Omega-3 desaturase Gene transfer Common carp Transcriptional regulation 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 31721005, 31222052 & 31671501), the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (grant no: XDA08010106), the State Key Laboratory of Freshwater Ecology and Biotechnology (grant no: 2016FBZ03) and the Youth Innovation Promotion Association of CAS. We thank Yongming Li for his help in fish culture.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

10126_2018_9868_MOESM1_ESM.docx (339 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 338 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Freshwater Ecology and Biotechnology, Institute of HydrobiologyChinese Academy of SciencesWuhanChina
  2. 2.College of Advanced Agricultural SciencesUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Institute of Environment and HealthJianghan UniversityWuhanChina

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