Target of rapamycin (TOR) plays a critical role in triacylglycerol accumulation in microalgae
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Most microalgae produce triacylglycerol (TAG) under stress conditions such as nitrogen depletion, but the underlying molecular mechanism remains unclear. In this study, we focused on the role of target of rapamycin (TOR) in TAG accumulation. TOR is a serine/threonine protein kinase that is highly conserved and plays pivotal roles in nitrogen and other signaling pathways in eukaryotes. We previously constructed a rapamycin-susceptible Cyanidioschyzon merolae, a unicellular red alga, by expressing yeast FKBP12 protein to evaluate the results of TOR inhibition (Imamura et al. in Biochem Biophys Res Commun 439:264–269, 2013). By using this strain, we here report that rapamycin-induced TOR inhibition results in accumulation of cytoplasmic lipid droplets containing TAG. Transcripts for TAG synthesis-related genes, such as glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase and acyl-CoA:diacylglycerol acyltransferase (DGAT), were increased by rapamycin treatment. We also found that fatty acid synthase-dependent de novo fatty acid synthesis was required for the accumulation of lipid droplets. Induction of TAG and up-regulation of DGAT gene expression by rapamycin were similarly observed in the unicellular green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. These results suggest the general involvement of TOR signaling in TAG accumulation in divergent microalgae.
KeywordsChlamydomonas reinhardtii Cyanidioschyzon merolae Lipid droplet Microalga Target of rapamycin Triacylglycerol
We thank Ms. A. Ishiwata and Dr. M. Iwai for their technical assistance and technical advice, respectively. This study was supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (Grants-in-Aid 22681010, 24117521, 25440129 and 26117711 to S.I. and Grants-in-Aid 24248061 to K.T.).
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