Algae discovery offers potential for sustainable biofuels

[USA] James Umen, PhD, associate member at Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and colleagues have discovered a way to make algae better oil producers without sacrificing growth.

The findings were published in a paper titled, “Synergism between inositol polyphosphates and TOR kinase signaling in nutrient sensing, growth control and lipid metabolism in Chlamydomonas,” in The Plant Cell.

Umen and his team including lead author Inmaculada Couso, Ph.D., and collaborators Bradley Evans PhD, director, Proteomics & Mass Spectrometry and Doug Allen, PhD, USDA Research Scientist at the Danforth Center identified a mutation in the green alga Chlamydomonas which substantially removes a constraint that is widely observed in micro-algae where the highest yields of oil can only be obtained from starving cultures.

Umen and his team found the oil-accumulating mutation in Chlamydomonas, called vip1-1, while investigating how two conserved signalling systems interact with one another. One system involves a protein called TOR (target of rapamycin) whose activity is tuned to match cell growth rate with nutrient levels in the environment.

 

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