The Biosynthesis of Astaxanthin Esters in Schizochytrium sp. is Mediated by a Bifunctional Diacylglycerol Acyltransferase

J Agric Food Chem. 2024 Feb 21;72(7):3584-3595. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.3c09086. Epub 2024 Feb 12.


Astaxanthin esters are a major form of astaxanthin found in nature. However, the exact mechanisms of the biosynthesis and storage of astaxanthin esters were previously unknown. We found that Schizochytrium sp. synthesized both astaxanthin and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-enriched lipids. The major type of astaxanthin produced was free astaxanthin along with astaxanthin-DHA monoester and other esterified forms. DHA accounted for 41.0% of the total fatty acids from astaxanthin monoesters. These compounds were deposited mainly in lipid droplets. The biosynthesis of the astaxanthin esters was mainly carried out by a novel diacylglycerol acyltransferase ScDGAT2-1, while ScDGAT2-2 was involved only in the production of triacylglycerol. We also identified astaxanthin ester synthases from the astaxanthin-producing algae Haematococcus pluvialis and Chromochloris zofingiensis, as well as a thraustochytrid Hondaea fermentalgiana with an unknown carotenoid profile. This investigation enlightens the application of thraustochytrids for the production of both DHA and astaxanthin and provides enzyme resources for the biosynthesis of astaxanthin esters in the engineered microbes.

PMID:38344823 | DOI:10.1021/acs.jafc.3c09086