Algae behave differently from each other, clues can help for biofuel production

October 17, 2021 |

In New Mexico, in a recent project funded by the Advanced Algal Systems (AAS) Program, researchers from LANL and the New Mexico Consortium are exploring the biofuel candidate Chlorella sorokiniana, developing genetic engineering tools in order to introduce novel traits that would allow the algae to grow faster and accumulate more biomass for biofuel production.

In order to improve growth, the team attempted to transform or change one of the Chlorella sorokiniana cultures by adding specific genes.  However, they quickly found that some cultures grown from single colonies were amenable to genetic transformation, able to express the gene-of-interest, whereas others were not. This was a surprising clue that the C. sorokiniana culture they were studying might not be just one species.

In order to test this hypothesis, the LANL scientists characterized single algal colonies, discovering that some single colonies behaved differently than others. For example, some colonies exhibited the ability to degrade cellulose (an ability that could allow the algae to grow on alternative carbon substrates), while others had higher antibiotic tolerance (a trait important in genetic engineering) and salt resistance (a characteristic that may enable an algae to grow in brackish water). Under a microscope, they all appeared as little green balls and preliminary DNA analysis had indicated they were indeed a homogenous culture of Chlorella sorokiniana.

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Category: Research

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