Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Evolutionary view of acyl-CoA diacylglycerol acyltransferase (DGAT), a key enzyme in neutral lipid biosynthesis

Andreia C Turchetto-Zolet12, Felipe S Maraschin1, Guilherme L de Morais2, Alexandro Cagliari1, Cláudia MB Andrade2, Marcia Margis-Pinheiro1 and Rogerio Margis123*

Author affiliations

1 Programa de Pós-Graduação em Genética e Biologia Molecular, Departamento de Genética, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

2 Centro de Biotecnologia, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

3 Departamento de Biofísica, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

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Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:263  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-263

Published: 20 September 2011



Triacylglycerides (TAGs) are a class of neutral lipids that represent the most important storage form of energy for eukaryotic cells. DGAT (acyl-CoA: diacylglycerol acyltransferase; EC is a transmembrane enzyme that acts in the final and committed step of TAG synthesis, and it has been proposed to be the rate-limiting enzyme in plant storage lipid accumulation. In fact, two different enzymes identified in several eukaryotic species, DGAT1 and DGAT2, are the main enzymes responsible for TAG synthesis. These enzymes do not share high DNA or protein sequence similarities, and it has been suggested that they play non-redundant roles in different tissues and in some species in TAG synthesis. Despite a number of previous studies on the DGAT1 and DGAT2 genes, which have emphasized their importance as potential obesity treatment targets to increase triacylglycerol accumulation, little is known about their evolutionary timeline in eukaryotes. The goal of this study was to examine the evolutionary relationship of the DGAT1 and DGAT2 genes across eukaryotic organisms in order to infer their origin.


We have conducted a broad survey of fully sequenced genomes, including representatives of Amoebozoa, yeasts, fungi, algae, musses, plants, vertebrate and invertebrate species, for the presence of DGAT1 and DGAT2 gene homologs. We found that the DGAT1 and DGAT2 genes are nearly ubiquitous in eukaryotes and are readily identifiable in all the major eukaryotic groups and genomes examined. Phylogenetic analyses of the DGAT1 and DGAT2 amino acid sequences revealed evolutionary partitioning of the DGAT protein family into two major DGAT1 and DGAT2 clades. Protein secondary structure and hydrophobic-transmembrane analysis also showed differences between these enzymes. The analysis also revealed that the MGAT2 and AWAT genes may have arisen from DGAT2 duplication events.


In this study, we identified several DGAT1 and DGAT2 homologs in eukaryote taxa. Overall, the data show that DGAT1 and DGAT2 are present in most eukaryotic organisms and belong to two different gene families. The phylogenetic and evolutionary analyses revealed that DGAT1 and DGAT2 evolved separately, with functional convergence, despite their wide molecular and structural divergence.