Boosting EPA production in marine alga
We are very pleased with this work which has been published today in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. This was 5 years of hard work where a marine algal strain was chosen as the biomanufacturing host cell to make polyunsaturated fatty acid, EPA. It was selected due to its relatively high EPA content and ability to grow at large scale. However, the flip side was that it was unsequenced and therefore not exactly easy to characterise using omics, or forward engineer. However, undaunted the team achieved just that.
Using chemical mutagenesis with a unique combination of fatty acid synthase inhibitors, a screening strategy identified mutant strains that were able to accumulate enhanced EPA, at concentrations and rates unparalleled in the literature. We wanted to find out what had changed and a comprehensive quantitative proteomics approach provided plenty of clues. It seems that the Lipid Droplet Surface Protein is certainly a target for engineering algal cells for EPA production. However, it's not just about making more fatty acid synthesis or reducing fatty acid degradation, our experiments on localisation of EPA provided additional evidence that more EPA from the membrane lipids could be translocated to TAG bodies in the mutant strain.
The next stage, was to scale up in the Phyco-flow, and that paper is to follow.