Carnegie researchers map % of key algae’s genes

May 9, 2022 |

In Washington, a team led by current and former Carnegie plant biologists has undertaken the largest ever functional genomic study of a photosynthetic organism. Their work, published in Nature Genetics, could inform strategies for improving agricultural yields and mitigating climate change. Despite its fundamental importance, many of the genes associated with photosynthesis remain uncharacterized. Luckily, algae present an accessible vehicle for elucidating the genetic information that underpins this vital process.

Chlamydomonas represents a group of photosynthetic algae that are found around the globe in fresh and saltwater, moist soils, and even at the surface of snow. They readily grow in the lab, even in darkness if given the right nutrients. This makes Chlamydomonas an excellent research tool for plant biologists, especially for those interested in the genetics of the photosynthetic apparatus, as well as many other aspects of plant biochemistry, such as responses to light and stress.

This study represented 78% of Chlamydomonas genes—nearly 14,000—providing a framework for prioritizing which genes are good candidates for further research and enabling scientists to begin to hypothesize about the possible functions of poorly understood genes in photosynthetic organisms.

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