Comprehensive Omics Profiling Combined with Advanced Imaging Reveals Targets for Optimizing Lipid Biofuel Production in Yeast


With increasing emphasis on sustainable energy sources, lipid-derived biofuels are a promising substitute for fossil fuels. In particular, the yeast species Yarrowia lipolytica has strong potential as a biofuel-producing organism because it accumulates large amounts of lipids, but little is known about the key biological processes involved. A recent study led by scientists from the Department of Energy’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory identified and characterized major pathways involved in lipid accumulation from glucose in this yeast species. The researchers obtained metabolomic and lipidomic profiles of the yeast cells using EMSL’s mass spectrometry capabilities, and they used confocal, electron, and helium ion microscopes in EMSL’s Quiet Wing to visualize changes in cellular structures over time. The team found that when fed glucose, the cells accumulated lipids rapidly and that lipid production peaked at 48 hours, but they also found that the highest proportion of a biofuel-friendly lipid occurred at 24 hours. By 72 hours, the cells began to produce thicker cell walls. These omics profiling results provide insights into possible targets for metabolic engineering to improve lipid production in Y. lipolytica. The visual results demonstrating that the cells produce thicker cell walls as they age suggest that the genes involved in cell wall synthesis are a potential target for improving the efficiency of lipid production.

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Pomraning, K. R., S. W. Wei, S. A. Karagiosis, Y. M. Kim, A. C. Dohnalkova, B. W. Arey, E. L. Bredeweg, G. Orr, T. O. Metz, and S. E. Baker. 2015. “Comprehensive Metabolomic, Lipidomic and Microscopic Profiling of Yarrowia lipolytica During Lipid Accumulation Identifies Targets for Increased Lipogenesis,” PLoS One 10(4), e0123188. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0123188.