Methods in Molecular Biology Volume 579, 2009, pp 375-389
Date: 06 Aug 2009

Mammalian Fatty Acid Elongases

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Summary

Very long chain fatty acids confer functional diversity on cells by variations in their chain length and degree of unsaturation. Microsomal fatty acid elongation represents the major pathway for determining the chain length of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids in cellular lipids. The overall reaction for fatty acid elongation involves four enzymes and utilizes malonyl CoA, NADPH, and fatty acyl CoA as substrates. While the fundamental pathway and its requirements have been known for many years, recent advances have revealed a family of enzymes involved in the first step of the reaction, i.e., the condensation reaction. Seven fatty acid elongase subtypes (Elovl #1–7) have been identified in the mouse, rat, and human genomes. These enzymes determine the rate of overall fatty acid elongation. Moreover, these enzymes also display differential substrate specificity, tissue distribution, and regulation, making them important regulators of cellular lipid composition as well as specific cellular functions. Herein, methods are described to measure elongase activity, analyze elongation products, and alter cellular elongase expression.