Abscisic acid (ABA) has been known to exist in a microalgal system and serves as one of the chemical stimuli in various biological pathways. Nonetheless, the involvement of ABA in fatty acid biosynthesis, particularly at the transcription level in microalgae is poorly understood. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of exogenous ABA on growth, total oil content, fatty acid composition, and the expression level of beta ketoacyl-ACP synthase I (KAS I) and omega-3 fatty acid desaturase (ω-3 FAD) genes in Chlorella vulgaris UMT-M1. ABA was applied to early stationary C. vulgaris cultures at concentrations of 0, 10, 20, and 80 μM for 48 h. The results showed that ABA significantly increased biomass production and total oil content. The increment of palmitic (C16:0) and stearic (C18:0) acids was coupled by decrement in linoleic (C18:2) and α-linolenic (C18:3n3) acids. Both KAS I and ω-3 FAD gene expression were downregulated, which was negatively correlated to saturated fatty acid (SFAs), but positively correlated to polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) accumulations. Further analysis of both KAS I and ω-3 FAD promoters revealed the presence of multiple ABA-responsive elements (ABREs) in addition to other phytohormone-responsive elements. However, the role of these phytohormone-responsive elements in regulating KAS I and ω-3 FAD gene expression still remains elusive. This revelation might suggest that phytohormone-responsive gene regulation in C. vulgaris and microalgae as a whole might diverge from higher plants which deserve further scientific research to elucidate its functional roles.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.