Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 102, Issue 6, pp 2509–2523 | Cite as

Critical steps in carbon metabolism affecting lipid accumulation and their regulation in oleaginous microorganisms

  • Marianna Dourou
  • Dimitra Aggeli
  • Seraphim Papanikolaou
  • George Aggelis


Oleaginous microorganisms are able to convert numerous agro-industrial and municipal wastes into storage lipids (single cell oil (SCO)) and are therefore considered as potential biofuel producers. While from an environmental and technological point of view the idea to convert waste materials into fuels is very attractive, the production cost of SCO is not currently competitive to that of conventional oils due to the low productivity of oleaginous microorganisms in combination with the high fermentation cost. Current strategies used to optimize the lipid-accumulating capacity of oleaginous microorganisms include the overexpression of genes encoding for key enzymes implicated in fatty acid and triacylglycerol synthesis, such as ATP-dependent citrate lyase, acetyl-CoA carboxylase, malic enzyme, proteins of the fatty acid synthase complex, glycerol 3-phosphate dehydrogenase and various acyltransferases, and/or the inactivation of genes encoding for enzymes implicated in storage lipid catabolism, such as lipases and acyl-CoA oxidases. Furthermore, blocking, even partially, pathways competitive to lipid biosynthesis (e.g., those involved in the accumulation of storage polysaccharide or organic acid and polyol excretion) can also increase lipid-accumulating ability in oleaginous microorganisms. Methodologies, such as adaptive laboratory evolution, can be included in existing workflows for the generation of strains with improved lipid accumulation capacity. In our opinion, efforts should be focused in the construction of strains with high carbon uptake rates and a reprogrammed coordination of the individual parts of the oleaginous machinery that maximizes carbon flux towards lipogenesis.


Regulating lipid metabolism Lipid biosynthesis Lipid degradation Competitive pathways Yarrowia lipolytica 


Funding information

We acknowledge support of this work by the project “INVALOR: Research Infrastructure for Waste Valorization and Sustainable Management” (MIS 5002495) which is implemented under the Action “Reinforcement of the Research and Innovation Infrastructure,” funded by the Operational Programme “Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation” (NSRF 2014–2020) and co-financed by Greece and the European Union (European Regional Development Fund).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Unit of Microbiology, Division of Genetics, Cell and Developmental Biology, Department of BiologyUniversity of PatrasPatrasGreece
  2. 2.Department of GeneticsStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  3. 3.Department of Food Science and Human NutritionAgricultural University of AthensAthensGreece

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