Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Discovery of an alga's 'dictionary of genes' could lead to advances in biofuels, medicine

23.05.2017

Researchers from UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco map the genome of C. zofingiensis

Plant biologists and biochemists from UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco have produced a gold mine of data by sequencing the genome of a green alga called Chromochloris zofingiensis.


Scientists looked inside the alga's cells. The cell nucleus is in purple, mitochondria in red, chloroplast in green and lipids in yellow.

Credit: Melissa Roth/HHMI and Andreas Walters/Berkeley Lab

Scientists have learned in the past decade that the tiny, single-celled organism could be used as a source of sustainable biofuel and that it produces a substance called astaxanthin, which may be useful for treating certain diseases. The new research could be an important step toward improving production of astaxanthin by algae and engineering its production in plants and other organisms.

The study is published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Chromochloris zofingiensis is one of the most prolific producers of a type of lipids called triacylglycerols, which are used in producing biofuels.

Knowing the genome is like having a "dictionary" of the alga's approximately 15,000 genes, said co-senior author Sabeeha Merchant, a UCLA professor of biochemistry. "From there, researchers can learn how to put the 'words' and 'sentences' together, and to target our research on important subsets of genes."

C. zofingiensis provides an abundant natural source for astaxanthin, an antioxidant found in salmon and other types of fish, as well as in some birds' feathers. And because of its anti-inflammatory properties, scientists believe astaxanthin may have benefits for human health; it is being tested in treatments for cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, inflammatory diseases, diabetes and obesity. Merchant said the natural version has stronger antioxidant properties than chemically produced ones, and only natural astaxanthin has been approved for human consumption.

The study also revealed that an enzyme called beta-ketolase is a critical component in the production of astaxanthin.

Algae absorb carbon dioxide and derive their energy from sunlight, and C. zofingiensis in particular can be cultivated on non-arable land and in wastewater. Harnessing it as a source for renewable and sustainable biofuels could lead to new ways to produce clean energy, said Krishna Niyogi, co-senior author of the paper and a scientist at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Over the past decade-plus, Merchant said, research with algae, a small plant called rockcress, fruit flies and nematode worms -- all so-called "model organisms" -- has been advanced by other scientists' determining their genome sequences.

"They are called model organisms because we use what we learn about the operation of their cells and proteins as a model for understanding the workings of more complex systems like humans or crops," she said. "Today, we can sequence the genome of virtually any organism in the laboratory, as has been done over the past 10 to 15 years with other model organisms."

Merchant, Niyogi and Matteo Pellegrini, a UCLA professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology and a co-author of the study, maintain a website that shares a wealth of information about the alga's genome.

During the study, the scientists also used soft X-ray tomography, a technique similar to a CT scan, to get a 3-D view of the algae cells [video], which gave them more detailed insights about their biology.

###

Niyogi is also a UC Berkeley professor of plant and microbial biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. The study's other authors are researchers Shawn Cokus and Sean Gallaher and postdoctoral scholar David Lopez, all of UCLA; postdoctoral fellow Melissa Roth, and graduate students Erika Erickson, Benjamin Endelman and Daniel Westcott, all of Niyogi's laboratory; and Carolyn Larabell, a professor of anatomy, and researcher Andreas Walter, both of UC San Francisco.

The research was funded by the Department of Energy's Office of Science, the Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

edia Contact

Stuart Wolpert
swolpert@support.ucla.edu
310-206-0511

 @uclanewsroom

http://www.newsroom.ucla.edu 

Stuart Wolpert | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Study reveals how bacteria build essential carbon-fixing machinery
09.07.2020 | University of Liverpool

nachricht Stress testing 'coral in a box'
09.07.2020 | University of Konstanz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The spin state story: Observation of the quantum spin liquid state in novel material

New insight into the spin behavior in an exotic state of matter puts us closer to next-generation spintronic devices

Aside from the deep understanding of the natural world that quantum physics theory offers, scientists worldwide are working tirelessly to bring forth a...

Im Focus: Excitation of robust materials

Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class

In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...

Im Focus: Electrons in the fast lane

Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....

Im Focus: The lightest electromagnetic shielding material in the world

Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.

Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...

Im Focus: Gentle wall contact – the right scenario for a fusion power plant

Quasi-continuous power exhaust developed as a wall-friendly method on ASDEX Upgrade

A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Porous graphene ribbons doped with nitrogen for electronics and quantum computing

09.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Record efficiency for printed solar cells

09.07.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Rock 'n' control

09.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>