Brazilian Journal of Botany

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 13–22 | Cite as

Effect of phosphorus and growth phases on the transcription levels of EPA biosynthesis genes in the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum

  • Rafael Garcia LopesEmail author
  • Herculano Cella
  • Jacó Joaquim Mattos
  • Maria Risoleta Freire Marques
  • Aline Terra Soares
  • Nelson Roberto Antoniosi Filho
  • Roberto Bianchini Derner
  • Leonardo Rubi Rörig
Original article


Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are essential in the animal diet, notably eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids (EPA and DHA, respectively), and in recent years, microalgae like marine diatoms are being considered as an alternative source of PUFA. Therefore, this study evaluated the effect of three nitrogen/phosphorus (N/P) ratios (21/1, 14/1 and 7/1) and two growth phases (exponential and stationary) on both EPA concentration and gene transcript levels, four front-end desaturases and two elongases, involved in EPA biosynthesis of the microalgae Phaeodactylum tricornutum Bohlin. The experiment was carried out for 12 days, and the samples were assessed for growth and nutrient intake; in addition, qPCR was performed, as well as an analysis of fatty acids. Gene transcript levels were growth phase-dependent, and only two genes, PTD6 and PTD5A, were responsive to N/P ratios. EPA levels in P. tricornutum biomass were shown to be growth phase-dependent, with higher concentrations in the exponential phase (28.64% of total fatty acids), irrespective of N/P treatments. In at least one N/P ratio (21/1), the transcription of one gene, PTD5A, could be associated with EPA levels. Data from gene transcript levels and EPA concentrations, as well as the lack of some EPA intermediates, might indicate some type of regulatory steps between gene transcription and actual EPA biosynthesis.


Desaturases Fatty acid biosynthesis Microalgae N/P ratios Transcript level 



The authors thank the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI) for financial support provided by FINEP (Agreement No. 01.10.0457.00) and CNPq (Case No. 407513/2013-2).

Authors’ contributions

RGL, HC, RBD and LRR conceived and designed the experiment. ATS and NRAF performed FAME analysis. RGL, HC, JJM and MRFM carried out qPCR assays. RGL, HC, RBD and LRR analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Authors declare that there is no conflict of interest regarding the publication of this article.


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Copyright information

© Botanical Society of Sao Paulo 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rafael Garcia Lopes
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Herculano Cella
    • 1
  • Jacó Joaquim Mattos
    • 3
  • Maria Risoleta Freire Marques
    • 3
  • Aline Terra Soares
    • 4
  • Nelson Roberto Antoniosi Filho
    • 4
  • Roberto Bianchini Derner
    • 1
  • Leonardo Rubi Rörig
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratory of Algae Cultivation, Department of Aquaculture, Center of Agrarian SciencesFederal University of Santa CatarinaFlorianopolisBrazil
  2. 2.Laboratory of Phycology, Department of Botany, Center of Biological SciencesFederal University of Santa CatarinaFlorianopolisBrazil
  3. 3.NEPAq-LABCAI - Laboratory of Biomarkers of Aquatic Contamination and Immunochemistry, Department of Biochemistry, Center of Biological SciencesFederal University of Santa CatarinaFlorianopolisBrazil
  4. 4.Laboratory of Extraction and Separation Methods, Institute of ChemistryFederal University of GoiasGoianiaBrazil

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