Genes for de novo biosynthesis of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are widespread in animals

Naoki Kabeya, Miguel Fonseca, David E. K. Ferrier, Juan Navarro, Line Bay, David Francis, Douglas Tocher, L. Filipe C. Castro, Óscar Monroig

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154 Citations (Scopus)
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Marine ecosystems are responsible for virtually all production of omega-3 (ω3) long- chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), essential nutrients for vertebrates. Current consensus is that marine microbes account for this production, given they have key enzymes including methyl-end (or “ωx”) desaturases. ωx desaturases have also been described in a small number of animals, but their precise distribution has not been systematically explored. This study identifies 121 ωx desaturase sequences from 80 species within the Cnidaria, Rotifera, Mollusca, Annelida and Arthropoda. Horizontal Gene Transfer contributed to this hitherto unknown widespread distribution. Functional characterization of animal ωx desaturases provides evidence that multiple invertebrates have the ability to produce ω3 PUFA de novo and further biosynthesize ω3 long-chain PUFA. This represents a fundamental revision in our understanding of ω3 long- chain PUFA production in global food webs, as numerous widespread and abundant invertebrates have the endogenous capacity to make significant contributions beyond that coming from marine microbes.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbereaar6849
Number of pages9
JournalScience Advances
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2018


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