Proteomic and biophysical analyses reveal a metabolic shift in nitrogen deprived Nannochloropsis oculata

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Journal Article
Algal Research, 2016, 19 pp. 1 - 11
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© 2016. The microalga Nannochloropsis oculata is a model organism for understanding intracellular lipid production, with potential benefits to the biofuel, aquaculture and nutraceutical industries. It is well known that nitrogen deprivation increases lipid accumulation in microalgae but the underlying processes are not fully understood. In this study, detailed proteomic and biophysical analyses were used to describe mechanisms that regulate carbon partitioning in nitrogen-deplete N. oculata. The alga selectively up- or down-regulated proteins to shift its metabolic flux in order to compensate for deficits in nitrate availability. Under nitrogen deprivation, proteins involved in photosynthesis, carbon fixation and chlorophyll biosynthesis were all down-regulated, and this was reflected in reduced cell growth and chlorophyll content. Protein content was reduced 4.9-fold in nitrogen-deplete conditions while fatty acid methyl esters increased by 60%. Proteomic analysis revealed that organic carbon and nitrogen from the breakdown of proteins and pigments is channeled primarily into fatty acid synthesis. As a result, the fatty acid concentration increased and the fatty acid profile became more favorable for algal biodiesel production. This advancement in microalgal proteomic analysis will help inform lipid accumulation strategies and optimum cultivation conditions for overproduction of fatty acids in N. oculata.
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