Algae Industry Magazine


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We are developing a strategy to transform Chlorella and Nannochloropsis species towards more productive and more robust organisms. It's been hard going but we've worked out several pathways by primarily trying to understand how to engineer the chloroplast of the organism and by understanding the metabolic function of a number of enzymes, and this will help us design new genetic tools into these organisms. This part of the project is happening here at Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as at Texas A&M, University of Arizona, Phycal and Targeted Growth. There are also minor partners working on new molecular developments in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii from UCLA, Washington University St. Louis, and the Danforth Plant Science Center. In the non-transgenic area, we're developing a couple of methods with our partners at the University of Arizona to adapt current organisms to become better producing and more robust. In the area of adaptive evolution we've been working with Chlorella protothecoides primarily. The University of Arizona has developed methods to have it grow faster under limited phosphate conditions. And, as we know, phosphate is going to be a limiting nutrient for any kind of agriculture. This work has been a series of adaptive evolutions under a chemostat selection series that reduced the phosphate availability of the organism and selected for the best growing isolates of the culture, regrowing them with even more limited availability of phosphate, while keeping their growth rate and productivity very high and effective. At LANL we are using flow sorting and selecting subpopulations of algae that have different lipid properties; we can choose either end of a bell curve where we can select algae with very high or very low concentrations of lipid. When we select the top part of that curve and regrow it we end up with an isolate of algae that has a 50% increase in lipid content compared to wild type. The culture stays healthy and can be maintained for many rounds beyond that. We had very good lipid productivity through these procedures, so we tried similar methods looking at Nannochloris sp. and selecting for fast growing species, and we've actually been able to almost triple the productivity of this organism. This process we've developed looks like a very nice new technology for selection and adapting of species under natural conditions, which would not need to include any transgenic modification of algae.

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