Biotechnology

Bulking up algae for biofuels

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Science  14 Jul 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6347, pp. 160-161
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6347.160-e

Vat of cultured microalgae, such as those used to produce biofuels

PHOTO: PASCAL GOETGHELUCK/SCIENCE SOURCE

In theory, algae could be a workhorse for the production of biofuels. When the industrial microalga Nannochloropsis gaditana is starved, it converts carbon to lipid for storage, which can then be extracted and converted to biofuel. However, scientists have been struggling to sustain growth while optimizing lipid production. Now Ajjawi et al. have announced that they can double the lipid content of the algae, without dramatically inhibiting growth. They used CRISPR-Cas9–mediated knockout of transcription factors that could be acting as repressors of lipid production to identify the regulator ZnCys. Rather than knocking out ZnCys completely (which mimicked starvation in its effects on growth), the investigators attenuated its expression. Although this advance is necessary if biofuel production from Nannochloropsis is to become an industrial reality, much more work needs to be done

Nat. Biotechnol. 10.1038/nbt.3865 (2017).

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