Biological Foundations of Algal Biofuels

Several MSU labs have begun to collaborate on exploring the regulatory mechanisms and biochemical reactions required for algal storage compound formation, with the expectation that the knowledge generated will provide a sound foundation for the engineering of optimized algal strains for the production of biofuel feedstocks.

Collaborators include:

The productivity and potentially low environmental impact of microalgae make them a viable option for the production of biofuel feedstocks in the form of triacylglycerols and carbohydrates. Microalgae preferentially produce these storage compounds following nutrient deprivation.

The focus is on the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and the marine heterokont Nannochloropsis oceanica as representatives of important groups considered for biofuel production. Induction of lipid droplets in Chlamydomonas reinhardtiiWe are in the process of sequencing, assembling, and annotating the Nannochloropsis genome and are building a genome database. A global transcript comparison of Chlamydomonas and Nannochloropsis is conducted under conditions that lead to storage compound accumulation. The group is also developing new expression vectors and gene inactivation technology for both algae to enable the testing of genomic/transcriptomic data driven hypotheses relevant to engineering storage compound accumulation.

Rachel Miller, Guangxi Wu, Rahul R. Deshpande, Astrid Vieler, Katrin Gärtner, Xiaobo Li, Eric R. Moellering, Simone Zäuner, Adam J. Cornish, Bensheng Liu, Blair Bullard, Barbara B. Sears, Min-Hao Kuo, Eric L. Hegg, Yair Shachar-Hill, Shin-Han Shiu and Christoph Benning. (2010) Changes in Transcript Abundance in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii following Nitrogen Deprivation Predict Diversion of Metabolism. Plant Physiology 154:1737-1752.

Moellering ER, Benning C. (2010) RNA interference silencing of a major lipid droplet protein affects lipid droplet size in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Eukaryot Cell. 2010 Jan;9(1):97-106.

This research is funded in part by AFOSR and MSU AgBioResearch (formerly MAES)