Diacylglycerol Acyltransferases Involved in Oil Biosynthesis in Microalgae

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The need for the development of biomass-based domestic production systems for high energy liquid transportation fuels is widely recognized. Concerns related to environmental impact and the price of oil combined with political issues related to dependence on foreign oil have increased interest in alternative biofuels. Currently transportation fuel is primarily derived from petroleum with increasing availability of biofuels including ethanol derived from corn and biodiesel derived from soy and palms. This technology relates to the identification of enzymes involved in oil biosynthesis in algae which normally occurs under stress conditions (e.g. nutrient stress). Michigan State University has identified a candidate gene for the enzyme diacylglycerol acyltransferase in the Chlamydomonas genome that is strongly induced under oil-producing conditions. This gene could be ectopically expressed in genetically engineered strains of algae resulting in high oil yields under normal conditions for the production of biofuels. Applications: The technology would be useful in biofuel production processes using algae thereby benefiting the emerging renewable-energy market. IP Protection Status: Patent pending


(1) Improved biofuel yields in algae: Genetically engineered algae based on the invention would increase yields improving the economics of algae-based biofuel production. (2) Algae good biofuel alternative: Algae may be a better alternative to soy ethanol and other biofuels due to higher potential yields and its status as a nonfood crop.

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