Arachidonic acid is important for efficient use of light by the microalga Lobosphaera incisa under chilling stress Academic Article uri icon


  • The oleaginous microalga Lobosphaera incisa (Trebouxiophyceae, Chlorophyta) contains arachidonic acid (ARA, 20:4 n − 6) in all membrane glycerolipids and in the storage lipid triacylglycerol. The optimal growth temperature of the wild-type (WT) strain is 25 °C; chilling temperatures (≤ 15 °C) slow its growth. This effect is more pronounced in the delta-5-desaturase ARA-deficient mutant P127, in which ARA is replaced with dihomo-γ-linolenic acid (DGLA, 20:3 n − 6). In nutrient-replete cells grown at 25 °C, the major chloroplast lipid monogalactosylglycerol (MGDG) was dominated by C18/C16 species in both strains. Yet ARA constituted over 10% of the total fatty acids in the WT MGDG as a component of C20/C18 and C20/C20 species, whereas DGLA was only a minor component of MGDG in P127. Both strains increased the percentage of 18:3 n − 3 in membrane lipids under chilling temperatures. The temperature downshift led to a dramatic increase in triacylglycerol at the expense of chloroplast lipids. WT and P127 showed a similarly high photochemical quantum yield of photosystem II, whereas non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) and violaxanthin de-epoxidation were drastically higher in P127, especially at 15 °C. Fluorescence anisotropy measurements indicated that ARA-containing MGDG might contribute to sustaining chloroplast membrane fluidity upon dropping to the chilling temperature. We hypothesize that conformational changes in chloroplast membranes and increased rigidity of the ARA-deficient MGDG of P127 at chilling temperatures are not compensated by trienoic fatty acids. This might ‘lock’ violaxanthin de-epoxidase in the activated state causing high constitutive NPQ and alleviate the risk of photodamage under chilling conditions in the mutant.

publication date

  • January 1, 2017