The near depletion of non-renewable energy sources and associated ecological problems indicate that sustainable future must be accompanied by the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable sources, less harmful to the environment. The oil industry has been moving into that direction by using oils and fatty acids of animal and vegetable origin, to produce a variety of goods and products, such as lubricants, detergents and polymers. This raw material, composed primarily of triacylglycerides, may also be used for the production of biodiesel through a transesterification reaction. Currently, oil-bearing crops are the largest source of triacylglycerides for the industry, but there are oleaginous yeasts that are also able to produce and accumulate lipids in their cytoplasm through activity of a protein complex containing the enzyme FAS (fatty acid synthase). This complex is composed of two subunits, each encoded by a different gene: FAS1 for the alpha subunit and FAS2 for the beta subunit, which are expressed in a coordinated manner. Seeking to obtain a yeast strain with high lipid production and accumulation capacity, the objective of this undergraduate research project is to overexpress the FAS1 gene in the oleaginous Yarrowia lipolytica yeast, a microorganism with high rates of fatty acid accumulation and for which genetic manipulation methods have already been developed. It is expected to obtain, at the end of this project, genetically modified micro-organisms, followed by phenotypic evaluation, as 'proof of concept' that manipulations in the pathway that includes the FAS enzyme may contribute to the increased production of oils, making the future use of such micro-organisms an economically viable alternative.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: