Monroig, O., Rotllant, J., Sánchez, E., Cerdá-Reverter, J.M., and Tocher, D.R. (2009) Expression of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LC-PUFA) biosynthesis genes during zebrafish Danio rerio early embryogenesis. BBA Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids. 1791(11):1093-1101.
Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) are essential in important physiological processes, many of which are particularly vital during embryonic development. This study investigated the expression of genes encoding enzymes involved in LC-PUFA biosynthesis, namely fatty acyl desaturase (Fad) and Elovl5- and Elovl2-like elongases, during early embryonic development of zebrafish. Firstly, zebrafish elovl2 cDNA was isolated and functionally characterised in yeast, showing high specificity towards C20 and C22 PUFAs, compared to C18 substrates. Secondly, spatial-temporal expression for elovl2 and the previously cloned fad and elovl5 were studied during zebrafish early embryonic development. Temporal expression shows that all three genes are expressed from the beginning of embryogenesis (zygote), suggesting maternal mRNA transfer to the embryo. However, a complete activation of the biosynthetic pathway seems to be delayed until 12 hpf, when noticeable increases of fad and elovl2 transcripts were observed, in parallel with high docosahexaenoic acid levels in the embryo. Spatial expression was studied by whole-mount in situ hybridization in 24 hpf embryos, showing that fad and elovl2 are highly expressed in the head area where neuronal tissues are developing. Interestingly, elovl5 shows specific expression in the pronephric ducts, suggesting an as yet unknown role in fatty acid metabolism during zebrafish early embryonic development. The yolk syncytial layer also expressed all three genes, suggesting an important role in remodelling of yolk fatty acids during zebrafish early embryogenesis. Tissue distribution in zebrafish adults demonstrates that the target genes are expressed in all tissues analysed, with liver, intestine and brain showing the highest expression.