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Open Access Research article

Transcriptome analysis reveals unique C4-like photosynthesis and oil body formation in an arachidonic acid-rich microalga Myrmecia incisa Reisigl H4301

Long-Ling Ouyang, Si-Hong Chen, Yan Li and Zhi-Gang Zhou*

Author Affiliations

College of Aqua-life Sciences and Technology, Shanghai Ocean University, 999 Hucheng Huan Road, Pudong New District, Shanghai 201306, China

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:396  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-396

Published: 13 June 2013



Arachidonic acid (ArA) is important for human health because it is one of the major components of mammalian brain membrane phospholipids. The interest in ArA inspired the search for a new sustainable source, and the green microalga Myrmecia incisa Reisigl H4301 has been found a potential ArA-producer due to a high content of intracellular ArA. To gain more molecular information about metabolism pathways, including the biosynthesis of ArA in the non-model microalga, a transcriptomic analysis was performed.


The 454 pyrosequencing generated 371,740 high-quality reads, which were assembled into 51,908 unique sequences consisting of 22,749 contigs and 29,159 singletons. A total of 11,873 unique sequences were annotated through BLAST analysis, and 3,733 were assigned to Gene Ontology (GO) categories. Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathway analysis uncovered a C4-like photosynthesis pathway in M. incisa. The biosynthesis pathways of lipid particularly those of ArA and triacylglycerol (TAG) were analyzed in detail, and TAG was proposed to be accumulated in oil bodies in the cytosol with the help of caleosin or oil globule-associated proteins. In addition, the carotenoid biosynthesis pathways are discussed.


This transcriptomic analysis of M. incisa enabled a global understanding of mechanisms involved in photosynthesis, de novo biosynthesis of ArA, metabolism of carotenoids, and accumulation of TAG in M. incisa. These findings provided a molecular basis for the research and possibly economic exploitation of this ArA-rich microalga.

Myrmecia incisa Reisigl H4301; 454 Pyrosequencing; C4-Like photosynthesis; Arachidonic acid; Microalga; Lipid metabolism; Oil body; Carotenoids