Thraustochytrids as a promising source of fatty acids, carotenoids, and sterols: bioactive compound biosynthesis, and modern biotechnology

Yingjie Song, Xuewei Yang, Shuangfei Li, Yanqing Luo, Jo Shu Chang, Zhangli Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Thraustochytrids are eukaryotes and obligate marine protists. They are increasingly considered to be a promising feed additive because of their superior and sustainable application in the production of health-benefiting bioactive compounds, such as fatty acids, carotenoids, and sterols. Moreover, the increasing demand makes it critical to rationally design the targeted products by engineering industrial strains. In this review, bioactive compounds accumulated in thraustochytrids were comprehensively evaluated according to their chemical structure, properties, and physiological function. Metabolic networks and biosynthetic pathways of fatty acids, carotenoids, and sterols were methodically summarized. Further, stress-based strategies used in thraustochytrids were reviewed to explore the potential methodologies for enhancing specific product yields. There are internal relationships between the biosynthesis of fatty acids, carotenoids, and sterols in thraustochytrids since they share some branches of the synthetic routes with some intermediate substrates in common. Although there are classic synthesis pathways presented in the previous research, the metabolic flow of how these compounds are being synthesized in thraustochytrids still remains uncovered. Further, combined with omics technologies to deeply understand the mechanism and effects of different stresses is necessary, which could provide guidance for genetic engineering. While gene-editing technology has allowed targeted gene knock-in and knock-outs in thraustochytrids, efficient gene editing is still required. This critical review will provide comprehensive information to benefit boosting the commercial productivity of specific bioactive substances by thraustochytrids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)618-640
Number of pages23
JournalCritical Reviews in Biotechnology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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