Nitrogen starvation causes lipid remodeling in Rhodotorula toruloides

Shekhar Mishra, Anshu Deewan, Huimin Zhao, Christopher V. Rao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The oleaginous yeast Rhodotorula toruloides is a promising chassis organism for the biomanufacturing of value-added bioproducts. It can accumulate lipids at a high fraction of biomass. However, metabolic engineering efforts in this organism have progressed at a slower pace than those in more extensively studied yeasts. Few studies have investigated the lipid accumulation phenotype exhibited by R. toruloides under nitrogen limitation conditions. Consequently, there have been only a few studies exploiting the lipid metabolism for higher product titers. Results: We performed a multi-omic investigation of the lipid accumulation phenotype under nitrogen limitation. Specifically, we performed comparative transcriptomic and lipidomic analysis of the oleaginous yeast under nitrogen-sufficient and nitrogen deficient conditions. Clustering analysis of transcriptomic data was used to identify the growth phase where nitrogen-deficient cultures diverged from the baseline conditions. Independently, lipidomic data was used to identify that lipid fractions shifted from mostly phospholipids to mostly storage lipids under the nitrogen-deficient phenotype. Through an integrative lens of transcriptomic and lipidomic analysis, we discovered that R. toruloides undergoes lipid remodeling during nitrogen limitation, wherein the pool of phospholipids gets remodeled to mostly storage lipids. We identify specific mRNAs and pathways that are strongly correlated with an increase in lipid levels, thus identifying putative targets for engineering greater lipid accumulation in R. toruloides. One surprising pathway identified was related to inositol phosphate metabolism, suggesting further inquiry into its role in lipid accumulation. Conclusions: Integrative analysis identified the specific biosynthetic pathways that are differentially regulated during lipid remodeling. This insight into the mechanisms of lipid accumulation can lead to the success of future metabolic engineering strategies for overproduction of oleochemicals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number141
JournalMicrobial cell factories
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 17 2024


  • Oleaginous yeast
  • Lipidomics
  • Transcriptomics
  • Lipid accumulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biotechnology


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