- The freshwater green microalga Parietochloris incisa is the richest known plant source of the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), arachidonic acid (20:4omega6, AA). While many microalgae accumulate triacylglycerols (TAG) in the stationary phase or under certain stress conditions, these TAG are generally made of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. In contrast, most cellular AA of P. incisa resides in TAG. Using various inhibitors, we have attempted to find out if the induction of the biosynthesis of AA and the accumulation of TAG are codependent. Salicylhydroxamic acid (SHAM) affected a growth reduction that was accompanied with an increase in the content of TAG from 3.0 to 6.2% of dry weight. The proportion of 18:1 increased sharply in all lipids while that of 18:2 and its down stream products, 18:3omega6, 20:3omega6 and AA, decreased, indicating an inhibition of the Delta12 desaturation of 18:1. Treatment with the herbicide SAN 9785 significantly reduced the proportion of TAG. However, the proportion of AA in TAG, as well as in the polar lipids, increased. These findings indicate that while there is a preference for AA as a building block of TAG, the latter can be produced using other fatty acids, when the production of AA is inhibited. On the other hand, inhibiting TAG construction did not affect the production of AA. In order to elucidate the possible role of AA in TAG we have labeled exponential cultures of P. incisa kept at 25 degrees C with [1-14C]arachidonic acid and cultivated the cultures for another 12 h at 25, 12 or 4 degrees C. At the lower temperatures, labeled AA was transferred from TAG to polar lipids, indicating that TAG of P. incisa may have a role as a depot of AA that can be incorporated into the membranes, enabling the organism to quickly respond to low temperature-induced stress.