Genetic Transformation

Researchers look to build a better algae strain
By Erin Voegele | May 01, 2012

Research at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute is aiming to assist scientists in the quest to discover the most effective algae species for biodiesel production. As part of the project, VBI researchers have assembled a draft genome of a marine algae sequence.

According to VBI, Robert Settlage and Hongseok Tae, scientists in its Data Analysis Core, assisted in the assembly of the genome of the marine algae Nannochloropis gaditana.

“Getting the data is now the easy part,” says Settlage. “What we’re doing in the DAC is enabling researchers to move beyond informatics issues of assembly and analysis to regain their focus on the biological implications of their research.”

In addition, the researchers discovered that using relatively straightforward genetic modification, the algae species should be effective in commercial-scale biofuel operations. In a report describing their work, the authors also point out N. gaditana is a promising organism that features favorable lipid yields. The report further notes some promising characteristics of the algae variety could be attributed to unique stramenopile photosynthesis genes and gene expansions.

According to the report, the availability of a genome sequence and other findings that have resulted from the work done by VCI researchers should help facilitate additional investigations of N. gaditana lipid production while allowing genetic engineering strategies to further improve the strain.
A scientific paper outlining the results of the project has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

—Erin Voegele

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