Monday 1 June 2020

Johansson SA, Stephenson P, Edwards RJ, Yoshida K, Moore M, Terauchi R, Zubkov MV, Terry MJ & Bibby TS (2020): Isolation and molecular characterisation of Dunaliella tertiolecta with truncated light-harvesting antenna for enhanced photosynthetic efficiency. Algal Research 48:101917.


  • Liquid based screening and selection of algae with truncated light harvesting antenna
  • Selection of algae with improved photosynthetic efficiency
  • Genome independent transcriptome profiling characterises photosynthetic physiology.
  • Develops potential to exploit the natural diversity of microalgae for biotechnology


Here we report the development of a high-throughput selection protocol using random mutagenesis and live single-cell sorting to isolate cell lines from the algae Dunaliella tertiolecta with reduced chlorophyll content, with the aim to optimise the antenna size for increased photosynthetic efficiency. Two promising cell lines (lca1 and lca2) have been isolated that display a truncated light-harvesting antenna, and hence improved photosynthetic energy conversion efficiency by increasing the light intensity at which photosynthesis becomes saturated (Is). lca1 and lca2 differ significantly: the lca2 phenotype retains an ability to alter its antenna size in response to varying light intensity, whereas lca1 appears to have lost this ability and is ‘locked’ to a truncated antenna and high-light phenotype. Despite these clear differences, transcriptomic analysis shows that the expression profiles for differentially expressed nuclear-encoded photosynthetic genes is similar in both lca1 and lca2, possibly suggesting underlying mutations in the regulation of photosynthesis are causing the observed changes in phenotype rather than mutations impacting specific components of the photosynthetic apparatus. The combination of approaches presented here offer the capacity to substantially improve photosynthetic efficiency from any microalgal species irrespective of the extent to which it has been characterised genetically or the availability of molecular tools for rational engineering. It thus offers the potential to begin to exploit the huge natural diversity of microalgae for enhanced biomass production.

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