Dynamics of fatty acid metabolism in a cell line from southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii)

Andrew Scholefield, Douglas Tocher, Kathryn Schuller

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    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Bluefin tunas are large predatory marine fish of great commercial value but little is known of their specific nutritional requirements. The three species are farmed in sea cages in Australia, the Mediterranean, Mexico and Japan where they are fed small oily fish sourced from wild-catch fisheries. This may not be sustainable and, therefore, it is important to investigate the possible consequences of the replacement of wild-catch fisheries products (fish oil and fish meal) with alternative oil and meal sources in feeds for these fish. To this end we have studied fatty acid metabolism in a recently developed southern bluefin tuna (SBT, Thunnus maccoyii) cell line designated SBT-E1. The predominant fatty acids in the total lipid of the SBT-E1 cells were 16:0, 18:0 and 18:1n - 9. There were also substantial amounts of 20:4n - 6, 22:5n - 3 and 22:6n - 3 but only very limited amounts of 18:2n - 6, 18:3n - 3 or 20:5n - 3. The fatty acid composition of the cells reflected that of the culture medium except that 20:4n - 6, 22:5n - 3 and 22:6n - 3 were substantially more abundant in the cells than in the medium. Fatty acid esterification occurred predominantly into phosphatidylcholine (PC) and phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), the two most abundant classes of lipids. The SBT-E1 cells showed very limited δ6 fatty acyl desaturase (Fads) activity towards either 18:3n - 3 or 18:2n - 6 but substantial elongation of very long chain fatty acids (Elovl) activity towards 20:5n - 3. The latter activity is usually attributable to an Elovl5 enzyme. Surprisingly though, there were much higher levels of δ6 Fads compared with Elovl5 gene expression in the SBT-E1 cells, suggesting that a different Elovl enzyme may catalyse this reaction in SBT. The cells also showed substantial β-oxidation of 18:3n - 3 and 20:5n - 3 but much less activity towards 18:0, 18:1n - 9 or 18:2n - 6. These results may explain the high 22:6n - 3 to 20:5n - 3 ratios found in the SBT tissue lipids, especially in the phospholipids. The results are discussed in terms of the presumed nutritional requirements of bluefin tunas given their high trophic level in marine food webs.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)58-68
    Number of pages11
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


    • Bluefin tuna
    • Desaturase
    • Elongase
    • Esterification
    • Fatty acid metabolism
    • β-oxidation


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