Expression of new nuclease for gene editing in Phaeodactylum tricornutum

Microalgae represent a promising bioresource for the production of a variety of high-value metabolites, including polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega 3, pigments, polysaccharides, and proteins. A critical component in achieving a sustainable and cost-effective algal production platform lies in achieving high biomass productivity with maximum bioactive yields. With this goal in mind, synthetic biology and gene editing offer the opportunity to optimise the metabolic pathways and improve strain performance. Recent developments in CRISPR‐Cas9 gene-editing technologies represent a new era for the engineering of algal genomes.

However, this enzyme is subject to very complex intellectual property rights. Royalties are so high and difficult to quantify that they strongly limit the enzyme’s use outside academic research.

In this project, we are planning to assess the efficiency of a royalty-free nuclease in the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum. Its efficiency and ease of use will be compared to the already established Cas9 protein. In collaboration with the small enterprise AlgaeCytes, the primary objective will be to knock-out a gene involved in lipid synthesis. The resulting strains will be cultured under a range of conditions, in order to establish the effects of this deletion on P. tricornutum lipidomics.

Further Information

Project conducted in collaboration with Donal Mc Gee, AlgaeCytes Ltd.

Key information

Funder: BBSRC

Project start date: April 2020

Project end date: October 2021

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Dr Felix Ciceron
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Other participants

Dr Tracey Beacham, Paul Rooks, Professor Mike Allen