New Clues to Cold Tolerance and Lipid Production for Biofuels in Polar Alga


Algae are of major interest to researchers who are developing alternative energy sources. For example, lipids making up algal membranes can be transformed into biodiesel. One photosynthetic alga, Coccomyxa subellipsoidea C-169, was recently isolated in Antarctica and now is the first alga from a polar region to have its genome sequenced. Surprisingly, the alga thrives at temperatures close to 20°C, though it is tolerant of the cold temperatures in the Antarctic. C. subellipsoidea was sequenced by the DOE Joint Genome Institute, and its predicted protein families were compared with those from several other sequenced green algae. The researchers found that the polar alga had more enzymes involved in lipid metabolism, such as those that desaturate fatty acids. This greater versatility of lipid metabolism is thought to have contributed to its adaptation to cold. The research will provide insights on novel enzymes that may prove useful to researchers working to harness algae for biodiesel production.


Blanc, G., et al. 2012. “The Genome of the Polar Eukaryotic Microalga Coccomyxa subellipsoidea Reveals Traits of Cold Adaptation,” Genome Biology 13, R39. DOI: 10.1186/gb-2012-13-5-r39.