Metabolic engineering of eukaryotic microalgae to improve lipid content

Project

Metabolic engineering of eukaryotic microalgae to improve lipid content

Microalgae accumulate large quantities of lipids under stress conditions, which makes them a valuable feedstock for biotechnological applications. In order to compete with conventional sources, production yields must be increased and production costs must be reduced. To achieve this goal efficient genetic tools to modify lipid metabolism will be developed.

Introduction

Microalgae have been shown to be a valuable and sustainable feedstock for biotechnological applications.

Microalgae are known to produce large quantities of fatty acids (such as triacylglycerols) under stress conditions. Some of them can accumulate over 50% of their dry weight. However in order to compete with conventional sources such as agricultural crops, production yields must be increased and production costs must be reduced.

The development of genetic modification techniques has opened up new opportunities for industrial applications. Although successful genetic transformation has been reported for several microalgal species, transformation efficiency and genetic stability of engineered strains are still a concern.

Aim

The aim of this project is to develop efficient transformation methods and genetic tools that allow the genetic modification of lipid metabolism in the oleaginous microalgae Neochloris oleoabundans and Scenedesmus obliquus.

In addition, we aim to demonstrate the long-term effectiveness of lipid overproduction by these improved microalgae strains in photobioreactors.

Approach

Conjugation and Electroporation methods have been developed for the efficient transformation of Neochloris oleoabundans and Scenedesmus obliquus. In order to increase lipid content in both microalgaes a molecular toolbox will be developed. Based on these techniques, the metabolic engineering of microalgae will be performed by overexpression of TAG biosynthesis genes, overexpression of transcriptional factors (TFs) and by silencing of starch biosynthesis genes.

A final approach will be focus on the analysis of gene expression and product formation by growing the improved strains under controlled conditions in photobioreactors.

Thesis projects

Within this project there are various possibilities for doing a BSc or MSc thesis. If you are interested in doing a BSc or MSc thesis, feel free to contact me.