Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Plankton Genome Sheds Light into Making Fish Oils

Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Rothamsted Research scientists have sequenced the whole genome and started characterizing the genes of the ecologically important marine alga Ehux.

"Ehux" is a coccolithophore, with an exoskeleton made of calcium carbonate. Even though the process by which the alga's "armor" forms releases CO2, Ehux can trap as much as 20% of organic carbon, derived from CO2, in some marine ecosystems.

Ehux also produce interesting and important fatty acids such as the omega-3 long chain polyunsaturates such as EPA1 and DHA2. Sequenced by the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), the Ehux genome was compared with sequences from other algal isolates and the results reported in the June 12 edition of Nature.

Ehux and its brethren are the basis of most ocean food chains. Phytoplankton biomass exceeds that of all marine animals combined. Activities of Ehux and some other phytoplankton such as diatoms influence climate processes, such as lowering ocean temperatures by reflecting sunlight and through carbon metabolism. Its versatility in either contributing to primary production of organic compounds from carbon dioxide or adding to CO2 emissions makes Ehux a critical player in the marine carbon cycle.

Part of the third most abundant group of phytoplankton, behind the diatoms and dinoflagellates, the Ehux strain was isolated from the South Pacific and is the first reference genome for coccolithophores. Originally estimated to be about 30 million bases, closer to a diatom, but the genome ended up being closer to 141 million bases.

"Carbon dioxide is fixed during photosynthesis and calcification," said Betsy Read, a professor of biological sciences at California State University, San Marcos who led the large international consortium of 75 researchers from a dozen nations exploring Ehux and the first author of this paper. "It is also released during the process of calcification, but we do not know how this release balances with the amount of CO2 that is buried when Ehux sinks to the bottom of the ocean. This is an important yet unresolved question."

"Ehux thrives in a broad range of physiochemical conditions in the ocean," said Igor Grigoriev, the paper's last author, whose team from the DOE JGI led the genome annotation and analysis. "It's a complex genome, with lots of genes and repeats, the first reference for haptophytes and fills another gap in the Eukaryotic Tree of Life. It is amazing that while you need a microscope in order to see this elegantly sculptured microbe, you can see from outer space the light reflected from large areas of ocean during Ehux blooms."

The researchers also found that the core gene sets include genes that allow Ehux to produce interesting and important fatty acids such as the omega-3 long chain polyunsaturates such as EPA and DHA.

Professor Johnathan Napier of Rothamsted Research noted that Ehux used an unusual aerobic pathway to synthesise these fatty acids . "Micoalgae such as Ehux are the primary producers of so-called fish oils, and given the abundance of this coccolithophore in our oceans, it means that this remarkable organism plays a critical and quirky role at the base of the foodwebs which provide omega-3 PUFAs," he said.

Professor Napier's team at Rothamsted Research, who receive strategic funding from BBSRC, has previously used fatty acid biosynthetic genes from algae to generate transgenic plants capable of synthesizing EPA and DHA.

"We will be very interested in testing the capacity of these new Ehux biosynthetic genes to make omega-3 PUFAs in transgenic plants" said Professor Napier . "These genes may allow for more efficient synthesis of these oils that are important for our health and the environment".

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

World's First Field Scanalyzer at Rothamsted Research
Automated measuring of crop growth and health in the field.
Thursday, July 16, 2015
PHI-base – A Database To Protect Crop Yields And Human Health
Scientists at Rothamsted Research, in collaboration with other researchers globally have improved an Open Access internet resource that catalogues genes involved in host-pathogen interactions.
Friday, January 09, 2015
A Big Step Towards More Efficient Photosynthesis
For the first time flowering plants have been successfully engineered to fix carbon like the blue-green algae do - this can potentially increase photosynthesis and yields in crop plants.
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
Revolutionary Technologies Developed to Improve Outcomes for Lung Cancer Patients
Breath test to detect lung cancer brings oxygen directly to the wound.
NIH Supports New Studies to Find Alzheimer’s Biomarkers in Down Syndrome
Initiative will track dementia onset, progress in Down syndrome volunteers.
Dementia Linked to Deficient DNA Repair
Mutant forms of breast cancer factor 1 (BRCA1) are associated with breast and ovarian cancers but according to new findings, in the brain the normal BRCA1 gene product may also be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Using Drug-Susceptible Parasites to Fight Drug Resistance
Researchers at the University of Georgia have developed a model for evaluating a potential new strategy in the fight against drug-resistant diseases.
Boosting Breast Cancer Treatment
To more efficiently treat breast cancer, scientists have been researching molecules that selectively bind to cancer cells and deliver a substance that can kill the tumor cells, for several years.
New Gene Map Reveals Cancer’s Achilles’ Heel
Team of researchers switches off almost 18,000 genes
New Discovery Sheds Light on Disease Risk
Gaps between genes interact to influence the risk of acquiring disease.
How Cells ‘Climb’ to Build Fruit Fly Tracheas
Mipp1 protein helps cells sprout “fingers” for gripping.
Research Finding Could Lead to Targeted Therapies for IBD
Findings published online in Cell Reports.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos