Members of the genus Rhodococcus are specialists in the biosynthesis and accumulation of triacylglycerols (TAGs). As no transport protein related to TAG metabolism has yet been characterized in these bacteria, we used the available genomic information of Rhodococcus jostii RHA1 to perform a broad survey of genes coding for putative lipid transporter proteins in this oleaginous micro-organism. Among the seven genes encoding putative lipid transporters, ro05645 (now called ltp1: lipid transporter protein) coding for an ATP-binding cassette protein was found clustered with others genes encoding enzymes catalysing the three putative acylation reactions of the Kennedy pathway for TAG synthesis. Overexpression of ltp1 in the RHA1 strain led to an increase of approximately sixfold and threefold in biomass and TAG production, respectively, when cells were cultivated on palmitic acid and oleic acid. Moreover, overexpression of ltp1 also promoted a significant increase in the uptake of a fluorescently labelled long-chain fatty acid (LCFA), as compared with the WT strain RHA1, and its further incorporation into the TAG fraction. Gluconate-grown cells showed increasing amounts of intracellular free fatty acids, but not of TAG, after overexpressing ltp1. Thus, for the first time to our knowledge, a transporter functionally related to TAG metabolism was identified in oleaginous rhodococci. Our results suggested that Ltp1 is an importer of LCFAs that plays a functional role in lipid homeostasis of R. jostii RHA1.
© 2014 The Authors.