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Biological Chemistry

Corporate researchers make fat algae

by Melody M. Bomgardner
June 26, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 26

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Credit: Synthetic Genomics
Researchers inspect algae with high oil content.
Credit: Synthetic Genomics
Researchers inspect algae with high oil content.

A research partnership between ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics reports using gene-editing techniques to double production of biofuel lipids in algae (Nat. Biotechnol. 2017, DOI: 10.1038/nbt.3865). First, researchers used CRISPR/Cas9 to find transcription factors that modulate the amount of carbon stored by the algae Nannochloropsis gaditana in fatty acids rather than in carbohydrates or proteins. They then used CRISPR/Cas9 and RNA interference to create mutations in the transcription factors, resulting in algae that make more oil without inhibited growth. ExxonMobil says the technology is still years from the market.

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