The ω-3 fatty acid desaturases are membrane-bound enzymes catalyzing the conversion of linoleic acid to linolenic acid in lipids, and are located both in the microsome and plastid envelopes as two different isoforms. A cDNA encoding the microsome ω-3 fatty acid desaturase (OsFAD3) and the corresponding genomic clone were isolated from rice (Oryza sativa L.). The OsFAD3 gene was composed of 8 exons and 7 introns. A microsatellite was present in the second exon of the OsFAD3 gene, showing polymorphism between Indica and Japonica rice varieties. The mapping of this microsatellite showed that the OsFAD3 gene was located on chromosome 11. Expression of the OsFAD3 cDNA in tobacco hairy root tissues and subsequent analysis of fatty acid compositions demonstrated the activity of the microsome ω-3 fatty acid desaturase. The OsFAD3 mRNA was abundant in root tissues, but was hardly detectable in leaves. In root tissues, a high level of the OsFAD3 mRNA was observed at 15°C and 20°C, with its level decreasing markedly at temperatures below 10°C. The accumulation of the OsFAD3 mRNA in leaf tissues remained at quite low levels, both at normal growth temperatures and at chilling temperature. Similar temperature responses of the OsFAD3 gene were observed both in chilling-tolerant and in chilling-intolerant rice cultivars.
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