Photosynthesis Research (v.123, #3)

Recombinant proteins are widely used for industrial, nutritional, and medical applications. Green microalgae have attracted considerable attention recently as a biomanufacturing platform for the production of recombinant proteins for a number of reasons. These photosynthetic eukaryotic microorganisms are safe, scalable, easy to genetically modify through transformation, mutagenesis, or breeding, and inexpensive to grow. Many microalgae species are genetically transformable, but the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is the most widely used host for recombinant protein expression. An extensive suite of molecular genetic tools has been developed for C. reinhardtii over the last 25 years, including a fully sequenced genome, well-established methods for transformation, mutagenesis and breeding, and transformation vectors for high levels of recombinant protein accumulation and secretion. Here, we review recent successes in the development of C. reinhardtii as a biomanufacturing host for recombinant proteins, including antibodies and immunotoxins, hormones, industrial enzymes, an orally-active colostral protein for gastrointestinal health, and subunit vaccines. In addition, we review the biomanufacturing potential of other green algae from the genera Dunaliella and Chlorella.
Keywords: Biomanufacturing; Recombinant protein production; Transgenic algae; Protein therapeutics; Expression systems

Engineering photosynthetic organisms for the production of biohydrogen by Alexandra Dubini; Maria L. Ghirardi (241-253).
Oxygenic photosynthetic organisms such as green algae are capable of absorbing sunlight and converting the chemical energy into hydrogen gas. This process takes advantage of the photosynthetic apparatus of these organisms which links water oxidation to H2 production. Biological H2 has therefore the potential to be an alternative fuel of the future and shows great promise for generating large scale sustainable energy. Microalgae are able to produce H2 under light anoxic or dark anoxic condition by activating 3 different pathways that utilize the hydrogenases as catalysts. In this review, we highlight the principal barriers that prevent hydrogen production in green algae and how those limitations are being addressed, through metabolic and genetic engineering.  We also discuss the major challenges and bottlenecks facing the development of future commercial algal photobiological systems for H2 production. Finally we provide suggestions for future strategies and potential new techniques to be developed towards an integrated system with optimized hydrogen production.
Keywords: Green algae; H2 metabolism; Hydrogenases; Electron transfer; Genetic engineering

Algal omics: unlocking bioproduct diversity in algae cell factories by Michael T. Guarnieri; Philip T. Pienkos (255-263).
Rapid advances in “omic” technologies are helping to unlock the full potential of microalgae as multi-use feedstocks, with utility in an array of industrial biotechnology, biofuel, and biomedical applications. In turn, algae are emerging as highly attractive candidates for development as microbial cell factories. In this review, we examine the wide array of potential algal bioproducts, with a focus upon the role of omic technologies in driving bioproduct discovery and optimization in microalgal systems.
Keywords: Algae ; Cell factory; Omics; Biofuels; Biotechnology

Toward a photosynthetic microbial platform for terpenoid engineering by Fiona K. Davies; Robert E. Jinkerson; Matthew C. Posewitz (265-284).
Plant terpenoids are among the most diverse group of naturally-occurring organic compounds known, and several are used in contemporary consumer products. Terpene synthase enzymes catalyze complex rearrangements of carbon skeleton precursors to yield thousands of unique chemical structures that range in size from the simplest five carbon isoprene unit to the long polymers of rubber. Such chemical diversity has established plant terpenoids as valuable commodity chemicals with applications in the pharmaceutical, neutraceutical, cosmetic, and food industries. More recently, terpenoids have received attention as a renewable alternative to petroleum-derived fuels and as the building blocks of synthetic biopolymers. However, the current plant- and petrochemical-based supplies of commodity terpenoids have major limitations. Photosynthetic microorganisms provide an opportunity to generate terpenoids in a renewable manner, employing a single consolidated host organism that is able to use solar energy, H2O and CO2 as the primary inputs for terpenoid biosynthesis. Advances in synthetic biology have seen important breakthroughs in microbial terpenoid engineering, traditionally via fermentative pathways in yeast and Escherichia coli. This review draws on the knowledge obtained from heterotrophic microbial engineering to propose strategies for the development of microbial photosynthetic platforms for industrial terpenoid production. The importance of utilizing the wealth of genetic information provided by nature to unravel the regulatory mechanisms of terpenoid biosynthesis is highlighted.
Keywords: Terpenoid; Cyanobacteria; Metabolic engineering; Terpene synthase; MVA pathway; MEP pathway

Engineering cyanobacteria as photosynthetic feedstock factories by Stephanie G. Hays; Daniel C. Ducat (285-295).
Carbohydrate feedstocks are at the root of bioindustrial production and are needed in greater quantities than ever due to increased prioritization of renewable fuels with reduced carbon footprints. Cyanobacteria possess a number of features that make them well suited as an alternative feedstock crop in comparison to traditional terrestrial plant species. Recent advances in genetic engineering, as well as promising preliminary investigations of cyanobacteria in a number of distinct production regimes have illustrated the potential of these aquatic phototrophs as biosynthetic chassis. Further improvements in strain productivities and design, along with enhanced understanding of photosynthetic metabolism in cyanobacteria may pave the way to translate cyanobacterial theoretical potential into realized application.
Keywords: Cyanobacteria; Biofuels; Carbohydrates; Feedstocks

This review covers recent research and development (R&D) activities in the field of algae-based biofuels in Korea. As South Korea’s energy policy paradigm has focused on the development of green energies, the government has funded several algae biofuel R&D consortia and pilot projects. Three major programs have been launched since 2009, and significant efforts are now being made to ensure a sustainable supply of algae-based biofuels. If these R&D projects are executed as planned for the next 10 years, they will enable us to overcome many technical barriers in algae biofuel technologies and help Korea to become one of the leading countries in green energy by 2020.
Keywords: Algae; Biodiesel; Biofuel; Korea; Research and development (R&D)

The place of algae in agriculture: policies for algal biomass production by Emily M. Trentacoste; Alice M. Martinez; Tim Zenk (305-315).
Algae have been used for food and nutraceuticals for thousands of years, and the large-scale cultivation of algae, or algaculture, has existed for over half a century. More recently algae have been identified and developed as renewable fuel sources, and the cultivation of algal biomass for various products is transitioning to commercial-scale systems. It is crucial during this period that institutional frameworks (i.e., policies) support and promote development and commercialization and anticipate and stimulate the evolution of the algal biomass industry as a source of renewable fuels, high value protein and carbohydrates and low-cost drugs. Large-scale cultivation of algae merges the fundamental aspects of traditional agricultural farming and aquaculture. Despite this overlap, algaculture has not yet been afforded a position within agriculture or the benefits associated with it. Various federal and state agricultural support and assistance programs are currently appropriated for crops, but their extension to algal biomass is uncertain. These programs are essential for nascent industries to encourage investment, build infrastructure, disseminate technical experience and information, and create markets. This review describes the potential agricultural policies and programs that could support algal biomass cultivation, and the barriers to the expansion of these programs to algae.
Keywords: Algae biomass; Agriculture; Policy; Renewable energy; Algae cultivation