May 2012

Polar Microbes Make Fat to Keep Warm

A polar alga with lipid metabolism enzymes may prove useful harnessing algae for biodiesel production.

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Image courtesy of Aix-Marseille University, France

From: Blanc, G., E., et al., 2012. “The genome of the polar eukaryotic microalga Coccomyxa subellipsoidea reveals traits of cold adaptation” Genome Biology, 13:R39 [DOI: 10.1186/gb-2012-13-5-r39].

The Science

A polar alga was found to have more enzymes involved in lipid metabolism, such as those that desaturate fatty acids.

The Impact

The research will provide insights on novel enzymes that may prove useful to researchers working to harness algae for biodiesel production.

Summary

Algae are of major interest to researchers who are developing alternative energy sources. For example, lipids making up algal membranes can be transformed into biodiesel. One photosynthetic alga, Coccomyxa subellipsoidea C-169, was recently isolated in Antarctica and now is the first alga from a polar region to have its genome sequenced. Surprisingly, the alga thrives at temperatures close to 20ºC, though it is tolerant of the cold temperatures in the Antarctic. C. subellipsoidea was sequenced by the DOE Joint Genome Institute and its predicted protein families were compared with those from several other sequenced green algae. This greater versatility of lipid metabolism is thought to have contributed to its adaptation to cold.

Contact

Dr. Guillaume Blanc
Aix-Marseille University, France
guillaume.blanc@igs.cnrs-mrs.fr

Funding

Basic Research: DOE Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research

Publications

Blanc, G., E., et al., 2012. “The genome of the polar eukaryotic microalga Coccomyxa subellipsoidea reveals traits of cold adaptation” Genome Biology, 13:R39 [DOI: 10.1186/gb-2012-13-5-r39].

Highlight Categories

Program: BER, BSSD

Performer/Facility: University, DOE Laboratory, BER User Facilities, JGI

Last modified: 9/3/2013 12:11:22 PM