The elongases of very long chain fatty acid (ELOVL or ELO) are essential in the biosynthesis of fatty acids longer than C14. Here, two ELO full-length cDNAs (TmELO1, TmELO2) from the yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor L.) were isolated and the functions were characterized. The open reading frame (ORF) lengths of TmELO1 and TmELO2 were 1005 bp and 972 bp, respectively and the corresponding peptide sequences each contained several conserved motifs including the histidine-box motif HXXHH. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated high similarity with the ELO of Tribolium castaneum and Drosophila melanogaster. Both TmELO genes were expressed at various levels in eggs, 1st and 2nd instar larvae, mature larvae, pupae, male and female adults. Injection of dsTmELO1 but not dsTmELO2 RNA into mature larvae significantly increased mortality although RNAi did not produce any obvious changes in the fatty acid composition in the survivors. Heterologous expression of TmELO genes in yeast revealed that TmELO1 and TmELO2 function to synthesize long chain and very long chain fatty acids.
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