Peroxisomal Straight-chain Acyl-CoA Oxidase and D-bifunctional Protein Are Essential for the Retroconversion Step in Docosahexaenoic Acid Synthesis

Hui Min Su, Ann B. Moser, Hugo W. Moser, Paul A. Watkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C22:6n-3) is essential for normal brain and retinal development. The nature and subcellular location of the terminal steps in DHA biosynthesis have been controversial. Rather than direct Δ4-desaturation of C22:5n-3, it has been proposed that this intermediate is elongated to C24:5n-3, desaturated to C24:6n-3, and " retroconverted" to DHA via peroxisomal β-oxidation. However, this hypothesis has recently been challenged. The goal of this study was to determine the mechanism and specific enzymes required for the retroconversion step in human skin fibroblasts. Cells from patients with deficiencies of either acyl-CoA oxidase or D-bifunctional protein, the first two enzymes of the peroxisomal straight-chain fatty acid β-oxidation pathway, exhibited impaired (5-20% of control) conversion of either [1-14C] 18:3n-3 or [1-14C]22:5n-3 to DHA as did cells from peroxisome biogenesis disorder patients comprising eight distinct genotypes. In contrast, normal DHA synthesis was observed in cells from patients with rhizomelic chondrodysplasia punctata, Refsum disease, X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy, and deficiency of mitochondrial medium- or very long-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase. Acyl-CoA oxidase-deficient cells accumulated 2-5 times more radiolabeled C24:6n-3 than did controls. Our data are consistent with the retroconversion hypothesis and demonstrate that peroxisomal β-oxidation enzymes acyl-CoA oxidase and D-bifunctional protein are essential for this process in human skin fibroblasts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38115-38120
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 12 2001


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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