- The fresh-water green alga Parietochloris incisa is the richest plant source of the PUFA arachidonic acid (20:4n-6, AA). To elucidate the biosynthesis of AA in this alga we labeled cultures of P. incisa with radioactive precursors. Pulse chase labeling with acetate resulted in its incorporation via the de novo biosynthesis pathway of FA. However, labeled acetate was also utilized for the elongation of C16 and C18 PUFA. Labeling with [1-14C]oleic acid has shown that the first steps of the lipid-linked FA desaturations utilize cytoplasmic lipids. PC and diacylglyceryltrimethylhomoserine are the major lipids involved as acyl carriers for the delta12 and delta6 desaturations of oleic acid, leading sequentially to linoleic and gamma-linolenic acids. The latter is released from its lipid carrier and elongated to 20:3n-6, which is reincorporated primarily into PE and PC and finally desaturated to AA. Galactolipids, mostly monogalctosyldiacyl-glycerol (MGDG), serve as substrates for the chloroplastic delta12 desaturase and, apparently, the omega3 desaturation, common to higher plants and many green algae. The predominant sequence desaturates the 18:1/16:0 molecular species of MGDG stepwise to the 18:3n-3/16:3n-3 molecular species similar to the prokaryotic pathway of higher plants and green algae.