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Coline Meï

Study of the relationship between cell division and triglyceride metabolism in plants and algae

Published on 25 October 2016

Thesis presented October 25, 2016

Alternatives to fossil fuel are one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century. Plants and microalgae are able to produce oil which is easily convertible in biodiesel. In order to optimise the biofuel production it is necessary to know the cellular mechanisms leading to the setting up of these storage lipids or TAG (Triacylglycerides). In its physiological condition, the lipid flux is naturally orientated towards the membrane lipid synthesis, which allows the creation of new membranes which occurs during the cell division. Nitrogen deficiency, a condition often encountered by plants and algae, is known to induce cell growth to slow down and an accumulation of TAG in microalgae models. Is the lipid flux, which is conventionally orientated towards new membrane synthesis, tipped over the storage lipid synthesis? To check this hypothesis, a range of compounds known to stop the cell growth was tested on the higher plant model Arabidopsis thaliana, according to a chemical genetic strategy. All treatments showed a rise of the TAG content associated to a cell growth inhibition. Among them, the methotrexate inhibit the dihydrofolate reductase enzyme involved in the C1 metabolism and induced a TAG accumulation up to 15 times the control. This treatment was compared to a nitrogen starvation condition, which in our experiments slowed down the cell growth and induced an increase of 60 times to the TAG content. The lipid profile analysis revealed that the nitrogen deficiency led to a decrease of membrane lipids -phospholipids and galactolipids, in favour to TAG, whereas the methotrexate treatment was not associated to any membrane remodelling. Nevertheless, both conditions shared similarities, as the modifications of the fatty acid insaturation profile and the expression of desaturase genes. The strong gene expression of Non Specific phospholipases C (NPC4/5) and pulse-chase experiments performed with a labelled phosphatidylcholine (PC), highlighted the predominant involvement of this phospholipid in the TAG production which occurs during the two treatments. In order to evaluate the NPC role in the storage lipid metabolism more closely, A. thaliana mutant lines for NPC4 and NPC5 (over-expressers and knock-out) were initiated. Microalgae are powerful models for the third generation of biofuels. For this reason we tested the impact of a nutrient deficiency as well as the effect of different growth inhibitors on the TAG accumulation in the marine algae Phaeodactylum tricornutum and Nannochloropsis gaditana. Preliminary results suggested that the inhibitor sensibility can be different between microalgae and higher plants.

Triacylglycerides, nutrient deficiency, biofuels, lipidomics

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