13 Oct 2018

Consortium led by CIIMAR reveals omega-3 biosynthesis in Sardine

Through the use of new generation technologies for genome sequencing and functional analysis, an international consortium led by the Interdisciplinary Center for Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR), University of Porto, makes significant progress in the sardine biology research. The project allowed elucidating the ability of this specie in biosynthesizing polyunsaturated fatty acids, the famous omega-3s.


Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients for human health, particularly in western societies given the significant prevalence of cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases. Only a few animals are able to biosynthesize long-chain omega-3s, including DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) essential for brain, skin and retinal development. This means that diet is the main source of omega-3 for many organisms, including humans. Its consumption and incorporation into our food is highly recommended, and products of marine origin, such as sardines, are examples of food with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.


The study from this international consortium that also has the participation of researchers from Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA), resulted in the publication of an scientific paper now published in Genes open access journal. Through genome study and functional analysis, the paper elucidated for the first time the sardine's endogenous ability to biosynthesize long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids.


The results of this work points out that, like many other fish of marine origin, while being efficient in the endogenous production of fatty acids like DHA, the sardine is incapable of synthesizing other long chain omega 3s. This knowledge is of particular importance for handling the species under captivity, and namely in the formulation of nutritionally balanced aquaculture feeds.


This research also involved scientists from the University of Tokyo in Japan, the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC  and the University of Oslo in Norway and was supported by the Norte Portugal Regional Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR-N).


The paper is available in open access here.