The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are essential for humans. They are essential for marine fish species as well. The current source is fish oil, but wild fish catches cannot be further increased. Continued growth of marine aquaculture, in Norway and globally, is now seriously constrained by the availability of fish oil. New, sustainable sources of the EPA and DHA are needed.
Thraustochytrids are unicellular eukaryotic microorganisms able to accumulate high levels of lipids. They can be cultivated at high cell concentration and are extremely promising organisms for development of economic competitive omega-3 fatty acid bioprocesses. Despite many years of research, there is still a lack of basic understanding of fatty acid synthesis in thraustochytrids. DHA and saturated fatty acids are produced by two competing pathways in them.
AUROMEGA is a joint project by Norwegian University of Science and Technology and SINTEF, an independent research organization, headquartered in Norway. Over the last decade partners have isolated a high number of thraustochytrid strains. They characterized their lipid-producing potential. The systems biology approach in AUROMEGA will provide an enhanced understanding of what limits the DHA synthesis in thraustochytrids. And, finally, how it can be improved.
The acquired new knowledge will be translated into enhanced DHA production capabilities of selected thraustochytrid strains and laying the foundation for a sustainable and economically feasible industrial omega-3 fatty acid production process, thereby enabling further growth of one of the most important industries in Norway.