Monroig, O., Rotllant, J., Cerda-Reverter, J.M., Dick, J.R., Figueras, A., and Tocher, D.R. (2010) Expression and role of Elovl4 elongases in biosynthesis of very long-chain fatty acids during zebrafish Danio rerio early embryonic development. BBA Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids. 1801(10):1145-1154.
Elovl4 is a fatty acyl elongase that participates in the biosynthesis of very long-chain fatty acids (>/=C24), which are relatively abundant in skin (saturated chains), or retina, brain and testes (polyunsaturated chains) of mammals. In the present study we characterised two Elovl4 proteins, Elovl4a and Elovl4b, from zebrafish Danio rerio, and investigated their expression patterns during embryonic development. Heterologous expression in baker's yeast showed that both zebrafish Elovl4 proteins efficiently elongated saturated fatty acids up to C36, with 26:0 appearing the preferred substrate as reported for human ELOVL4. Interestingly, activity for the elongation of PUFA substrates was only shown by Elovl4b, which effectively converted eicosapentaenoic (20:5n-3) and arachidonic (20:4n-6) acids to elongated polyenoic products up to C36. Furthermore, zebrafish Elovl4b may be involved in the biosynthesis of docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3, DHA) as it had the capacity to elongate 22:5n-3 to 24:5n-3 which can be subsequently desaturated and chain shortened to DHA in peroxisomes. The distinct functional roles of zebrafish Elovl4 proteins were also reflected in their spatial-temporal expression patterns during ontogeny. Analyses by whole-mount in situ hybridisation in zebrafish embryos showed that elovl4a was expressed in neuronal tissues (wide-spread distribution in the head area), with elovl4b specifically expressed in epiphysis (pineal gland) and photoreceptor cells in the retina. Similarly, tissue distribution in adults revealed that elovl4a transcripts were found in most tissues analysed, whereas elovl4b expression was essentially restricted to eye and gonads. Overall, the results suggest that zebrafish elovl4b resembles other mammalian orthologues in terms of function and expression patterns, whereas elovl4a may represent an alternative elongase not previously described in vertebrates.