Identification of novel genes involved in neutral lipid storage by quantitative trait loci analysis of Saccharomyces cerevisiae

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Background: The accumulation of intracellular fat depots is a polygenic trait. Therefore, the extent of lipid storage in the individuals of a species covers a broad range and is determined by many genetic factors. Quantitative trait loci analysis can be used to identify those genetic differences between two strains of the same species that are responsible for the differences in a given phenotype. We used this method and complementary approaches to identify genes in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae that are involved in neutral lipid storage. Results: We selected two yeast strains, the laboratory strain BY4741 and the wine yeast AWRI1631, with a more than two-fold difference in neutral lipid content. After crossing, sporulation and germination, we used fluorescence activated cell sorting to isolate a subpopulation of cells with the highest neutral lipid content from the pool of segregants. Whole genome sequencing of this subpopulation and of the unsorted pool of segregants implicated several loci that are involved in lipid accumulation. Three of the identified genes, PIG1, PHO23 and RML2, were investigated in more detail. Deletions of these genes and the exchange of the alleles between the two parental strains confirmed that the encoded proteins contribute to neutral lipid storage in S. cerevisiae and that PIG1, PHO23 and RML2 are the major causative genes. Backcrossing of one of the segregants with the parental strains for seven generations revealed additional regions in the genomes of both strains with potential causative genes for the high lipid accumulation phenotype. Conclusions: We identified several genes that contribute to the phenotype of lipid accumulation in an allele-specific manner. Surprisingly, no allelic variations of genes with known functions in lipid metabolism were found, indicating that the level of storage lipid accumulation is determined by many cellular processes that are not directly related to lipid metabolism.




Pačnik, K., Ogrizović, M., Diepold, M., Eisenberg, T., Žganjar, M., Žun, G., … Natter, K. (2021). Identification of novel genes involved in neutral lipid storage by quantitative trait loci analysis of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. BMC Genomics, 22(1).

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