The path to triacylglyceride obesity in the sta6 strain of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

Ursula Goodenough, Ian Blaby, David Casero, Sean D. Gallaher, Carrie Goodson, Shannon Johnson, Jae Hyeok Lee, Sabeeha S. Merchant, Matteo Pellegrini, Robyn Roth, Jannette Rusch, Manmilan Singh, James G. Umen, Taylor L. Weiss, Tuya Wulan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


When the sta6 (starch-null) strain of the green microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is nitrogen starved in acetate and then "boosted" after 2 days with additional acetate, the cells become "obese" after 8 days, with triacylglyceride (TAG)-filled lipid bodies filling their cytoplasm and chloroplasts. To assess the transcriptional correlates of this response, the sta6 strain and the starch-forming cw15 strain were subjected to RNA-Seq analysis during the 2 days prior and 2 days after the boost, and the data were compared with published reports using other strains and growth conditions. During the 2 h after the boost, ~425 genes are upregulated ≥2-fold and ~875 genes are downregulated ≥2-fold in each strain. Expression of a small subset of "sensitive" genes, encoding enzymes involved in the glyoxylate and Calvin-Benson cycles, gluconeogenesis, and the pentose phosphate pathway, is responsive to culture conditions and genetic background as well as to boosting. Four genes-encoding a diacylglycerol acyltransferase (DGTT2), a glycerol-3-P dehydrogenase (GPD3), and two candidate lipases (Cre03.g155250 and Cre17.g735600)-are selectively upregulated in the sta6 strain. Although the bulk rate of acetate depletion from the medium is not boost enhanced, three candidate acetate permease-encoding genes in the GPR1/FUN34/YaaH superfamily are boost upregulated, and 13 of the "sensitive" genes are strongly responsive to the cell's acetate status. A cohort of 64 autophagy-related genes is downregulated by the boost. Our results indicate that the boost serves both to avert an autophagy program and to prolong the operation of key pathways that shuttle carbon from acetate into storage lipid, the combined outcome being enhanced TAG accumulation, notably in the sta6 strain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-613
Number of pages23
JournalEukaryotic Cell
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014


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