Straminipilan protists : a study of their taxonomic position, morphology and abiotic stress-mediated gene expression

Ranasinghe, Chaminda Padmashantha (2013) Straminipilan protists : a study of their taxonomic position, morphology and abiotic stress-mediated gene expression. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Thraustochytrids have become of considerable industrial and scientific interest in the past decade due to their health benefits. They have been proven to be the principle source in marine and estuarine fish diets with high percentage of long chain (LC) or polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Therefore, the oil extracted from fish for human document.forms[0].elements[13].select();consumption is rich in PUFA with high omega-3 fatty acid content. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) of all of the omega-3 fatty acids, are considered beneficial essential oils for humans with a wide range of health benefits. These include brain and neural development in infants, general wellbeing of adults and drug delivery through precursor molecules. They have become one of the most extensively studied organisms for industrial oil preparations as PUFA extraction from fish becomes less profitable. Many forms of these Thraustochytrid oils are being trialled for human consumption all over the world.

In Australia, there has been little research performed on these organisms in the past ten years. A few Australian studies have been conducted in the form of comparative studies related to PUFA production within the related genera, but not focussed on their identification or cellular and genomic characterisation. Therefore, the main aim of this study was to investigate the morphological and genetic characteristics of Australian Thraustochytrids in order to aid in their identification and characterisation, as well as to better understand the effect of environmental conditions in the regulation of PUFA production. It was also noted that there was a knowledge gap in the preservation and total genomic DNA extraction of these organisms for the purposes of scientific research.

The cryopreservation of these organisms for studies around the world follows existing generic methods. However, it is well understood that many of these generic methods attract not only high costs for chemicals, but also uses considerable storage space and other resources, all of which can be improved with new or modified approaches. In this context, a simple and inexpensive bead preservation method is described, without compromising the storage shelf life. We also describe, for the first time, the effects of culture age on the successful cryopreservation of Thraustochytrids.

It was evident in the literature that DNA and RNA extractions for molecular and genetic studies of Thraustochytrids follow the classical phenol-chloroform extraction methods. It was also observed that modern protocols failed to avoid the use of phenol-chloroform rather than improving preparation and cell disruption. In order to provide a high quantity and quality DNA extraction, a modified protocol has been introduced that employs the use of modern commercial extraction kits and standard laboratory equipment.

Thraustochytrids have been shown to be highly conserved in their 18S rDNA gene sequences, which is used as the current standard for identification. It was demonstrated that the 18S rDNA gene sequence limits the recognition of closely related genera or within the genera from each member. Therefore, it was proposed that another profile, such as a randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) based profiling system, be tested for use in the characterisation of Thraustochytrids. The RAPD profiles were shown to provide a unique DNA fingerprint for each isolate and small variations in their genome were able to be detected. This method involved the use of a minimum number of standard arbitrary primers and with an increase in the number of different primers used, a very high discrimination between organisms could be achieved. However, the method was not suitable for taxonomic purposes because the results did not correlate with other taxonomic features such as morphology. Another knowledge gap was found with respect to Australian Thraustochytrid growth characteristics, in that these had not been recorded and published. In order to rectify this, a record of colony and microscopic features of 12 selected isolates was performed. The results of preliminary studies indicated that further microbiological and biochemical studies are needed for full characterisation of these organisms. This information is of great importance to bio-prospecting of new Thraustochytrids from Australian ecosystems and would allow for their accurate identification, and so permit the prediction of their PUFA capability by comparison with related genera/species.

It was well recognized that environmental stress plays a role in the PUFA production and is mainly due to the reactive oxygen species as abiotic stress (Chiou et al., 2001; Okuyama et al., 2008; Shabala et al., 2009; Shabala et al., 2001). In this aspect, this study makes the first attempt towards better understanding of this phenomenon by way of the use of real-time PCR for the detection of environmental effects on the regulation of PUFA production. Three main environmental conditions including temperature, pH and oxygen availability were monitored as stress inducers.

In summary, this study provides novel approaches for the preservation and handling of Thraustochytrids, their molecular biological features, taxonomy, characterisation and responses to environmental factors with respect to their oil production enzymes. The information produced from this study will prove to be vital for both industrial and scientific investigations in the future.

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ID Code: 76360
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Hargreaves, Megan, Harding, Robert, & Hussain, Malik
Keywords: straminipilan protists, taxonomic position, morphology, gene expression
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 25 Sep 2014 04:48
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2017 14:46

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