Of the 25,000 species of algae existing on earth, many algal strains have been studied, screened or abandoned over the years when examining them as feedstock for biofuel production in the nascent industry. Chlorella sp., however, has always remained a darling. While scientists have shown a patronizing attitude towards this organism when considering it as a feedstock for biofuel production, it has reciprocated likewise by assuring them of a high lipid content (Chlorella sp. has just 30% of dry matter).
Chlorella became one of the first algal species to be cultivated at scale when Nihon Chlorella of Japan first cultivated them as a food supplement source in the mid-twentieth century. Now, Chlorella is the second top selling health supplement in Japan with over 30% of the population consuming it as their principal health supplement.
However,it is only now that the Chlorella microalgae genome has been decoded to aid biofuel production by the Laboratoire Information Génomique et Structurale of CNRS, which is heading an international collaboration involving American and Japanese laboratories.
Important conclusions from the analysis:
• It suggests that Chlorella could have a sexual cycle (which had gone unnoticed so far).
• That a virus probably gave it the capacity to synthesize chitin-rich cell walls, a unique property in algae.
• Predicts 9,791 protein genes, a total comparable to that of its cousin Micromonas.
This work is published online on The Plant Cell journal’s website.
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