Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 102, Issue 7, pp 3027–3035 | Cite as

Biosynthesis of nervonic acid and perspectives for its production by microalgae and other microorganisms

  • Yong Fan
  • Hui-Min Meng
  • Guang-Rong Hu
  • Fu-Li LiEmail author


Nervonic acid (NA) is a major very long-chain monounsaturated fatty acid found in the white matter of mammalian brains, which plays a critical role in the treatment of psychotic disorders and neurological development. In the nature, NA has been synthesized by a handful plants, fungi, and microalgae. Although the metabolism of fatty acid has been studied for decades, the biosynthesis of NA has yet to be illustrated. Generally, the biosynthesis of NA is considered starting from oleic acid through fatty acid elongation, in which malonyl-CoA and long-chain acyl-CoA are firstly condensed by a rate-limiting enzyme 3-ketoacyl-CoA synthase (KCS). Heterologous expression of kcs gene from high NA producing species in plants and yeast has led to synthesis of NA. Nevertheless, it has also been reported that desaturases in a few plants can catalyze very long-chain saturated fatty acid into NA. This review highlights recent advances in the biosynthesis, the sources, and the biotechnological aspects of NA.


Very long-chain monounsaturated fatty acids Synthetic biology Metabolic engineering Cellular engineering 3-Ketoacyl-CoA synthesis 


Funding information

This project was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31602154), the Shandong Province Natural Science Major Program (ZR2017ZB0209), and the Shandong Province Natural Science Funds for Young Scholar (Nos. JQ201507 and ZR2017BC108).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical standards

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


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Biofuels, Shandong Provincial Key Laboratory of Synthetic Biology, Qingdao Engineering Laboratory of Single Cell Oil, Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess TechnologyChinese Academy of SciencesQingdaoPeople’s Republic of China

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