Structure and regulation of the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid synthase genes from the deep-sea bacterium Photobacterium profundum strain SS9

Microbiology. 2002 Jun;148(Pt 6):1903-1913. doi: 10.1099/00221287-148-6-1903.


Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) such as eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3; EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3; DHA) have been shown to be of major importance in the promotion of cardiovascular health, proper human development and the prevention of some cancers. A high proportion of bacterial isolates from low-temperature and high-pressure marine environments produce EPA or DHA. This paper presents the sequence of a 33 kbp locus from the deep-sea bacterium Photobacterium profundum strain SS9 which includes four of the five genes required for EPA biosynthesis. As with other bacterial pfa (polyunsaturated fatty acid) genes, the deduced amino acid sequences encoded by the SS9 genes reveal large multidomain proteins that are likely to catalyse EPA biosynthesis by a novel polyketide synthesis mechanism. RNase protection experiments separated the SS9 pfa genes into two transcriptional units, pfaA-C and pfaD. The pfaA transcriptional start site was identified. Cultivation at elevated hydrostatic pressure or reduced temperature did not increase pfa gene expression despite the resulting increase in percentage composition of EPA under these conditions. However, a regulatory mutant was characterized which showed both increased expression of pfaA-D and elevated EPA percentage composition. This result suggests that a regulatory factor exists which coordinates pfaA-D transcription. Additional consideration regarding the activities required for PUFA synthesis is provided together with comparative analyses of bacterial pfa genes and gene products.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / biosynthesis
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Fatty Acid Synthases / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic*
  • Genes, Bacterial / genetics
  • Hydrostatic Pressure
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family / genetics
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Nuclease Protection Assays
  • Operon / genetics
  • Photobacterium / enzymology*
  • Photobacterium / genetics*
  • Photobacterium / growth & development
  • Photobacterium / metabolism
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic / genetics
  • Water Microbiology*


  • RNA, Bacterial
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid
  • Fatty Acid Synthases

Associated data

  • GENBANK/A82423
  • GENBANK/AB025342
  • GENBANK/AE004004
  • GENBANK/AF409100
  • GENBANK/AF467805
  • GENBANK/F69842
  • GENBANK/H82128
  • GENBANK/Y14083