Arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) fungi deliver mineral nutrients to the plant host in exchange for reduced carbon in the form of sugars and lipids. Colonization with AM fungi upregulates a specific host lipid synthesis pathway resulting in the production of fatty acids. Predominantly palmitic acid (16:0) and the unusual palmitvaccenic acid (16:1Δ11cis) accumulate in the fungus Rhizophagus irregularis. Here, we present the isolation and characterization of RiOLE1-LIKE, the desaturase involved in palmitvaccenic acid synthesis, by heterologous expression in yeast and plants. Results are in line with the scenario in which RiOLE1-LIKE encodes an acyl-CoA desaturase with substrate specificity for C15-C18 acyl groups, in particular C16. Phylogenetic analysis of RiOLE1-LIKE-related sequences revealed that this gene is conserved in AM fungi from the Glomales and Diversisporales but is absent from nonsymbiotic Mortierellaceae and Mucoromycotina fungi, suggesting that 16:1Δ11cis provides a specific function during AM colonization.
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