Microsomal membrane preparations from the maturing cotyledons of common borage (Borago officinalis) exhibit delta 12- and delta 6-desaturase activities, which resulted in the synthesis of linoleate and gamma-linolenate respectively. The desaturase enzymes utilized the complex lipid substrate phosphatidylcholine. The activity of these enzymes was sufficiently high to allow the monitoring of the mass changes in the endogenous oleate, linoleate and gamma-linolenate in the microsomal phosphatidylcholine in the presence of NADH (i.e. under desaturating conditions). The results illustrate that the delta 12-desaturase uses the oleate substrate at both the sn-1 and -2 positions of sn-phosphatidylcholine, whereas the delta 6-desaturase is almost totally restricted to the linoleate at position 2 of the complex lipid. Estimate of the acyl-substrate pool size at position 2 of sn-phosphatidylcholine for both desaturases indicated that some 50% of the oleate and linoleate was available to the enzymes. The microsomes (microsomal fractions) had a somewhat impaired Kennedy [(1961) Fed. Proc. Fed. Am. Soc. Exp. Biol. 20, 934-940] pathway for the formation of triacylglycerols when compared with other oil-rich plant species that have been studied [Stymne & Stobart (1987) The Biochemistry of Plants: a Comprehensive Treatise (Stumpf, P.K., ed.), vol. 10, chapter 8, pp. 175-214, Academic Press, New York]. In the presence of sn-glycerol 3-phosphate and acyl-CoA, large quantities of phosphatidic acid accumulated in the membranes. Acyl-selectivity studies on the glycerol-acylating enzymes showed that gamma-linolenate could be acylated to both the sn-1 and sn-2 positions of sn-glycerol 3-phosphate. However, stereochemical analysis of the acyl components of the sn-triacylglycerol obtained from mature seeds indicated that, whereas no gamma-linolenate was present at the sn-1 position, it accounted for over 50% of the fatty acids at position sn-3. The results indicate that the diacylglycerol acyltransferase (EC 22.214.171.124) may show a strong selectivity for gamma-linolenoyl-CoA and hence result in the efficient removal of this fatty acid from the acyl-CoA pool in vivo, leaving negligible substrate for utilization by the sn-glycerol 3-phosphate acyltransferase (EC 126.96.36.199).
- © 1988 London: The Biochemical Society