Metabolism of acyl-lipids in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

Plant J. 2015 May;82(3):504-522. doi: 10.1111/tpj.12787. Epub 2015 Mar 3.


Microalgae are emerging platforms for production of a suite of compounds targeting several markets, including food, nutraceuticals, green chemicals, and biofuels. Many of these products, such as biodiesel or polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), derive from lipid metabolism. A general picture of lipid metabolism in microalgae has been deduced from well characterized pathways of fungi and land plants, but recent advances in molecular and genetic analyses of microalgae have uncovered unique features, pointing out the necessity to study lipid metabolism in microalgae themselves. In the past 10 years, in addition to its traditional role as a model for photosynthetic and flagellar motility processes, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii has emerged as a model organism to study lipid metabolism in green microalgae. Here, after summarizing data on total fatty acid composition, distribution of acyl-lipid classes, and major acyl-lipid molecular species found in C. reinhardtii, we review the current knowledge on the known or putative steps for fatty acid synthesis, glycerolipid desaturation and assembly, membrane lipid turnover, and oil remobilization. A list of characterized or putative enzymes for the major steps of acyl-lipid metabolism in C. reinhardtii is included, and subcellular localizations and phenotypes of associated mutants are discussed. Biogenesis and composition of Chlamydomonas lipid droplets and the potential importance of lipolytic processes in increasing cellular oil content are also highlighted.

Keywords: Chlamydomonas reinhardtii; acyltransferases; biofuels; desaturases; green microalgae; lipases; lipid droplets; lipid mutants; membrane lipids; microalgal oil.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii / genetics
  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acid Desaturases / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / chemistry
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Fatty Acids
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Triglycerides
  • Fatty Acid Desaturases