Comparing Genomes of Two Algae Strains Highlights Genes for Carbon Capture


Scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, led by Alexandra Z. Worden, have decoded the genomes of two algal strains, highlighting the genes enabling them to capture carbon and maintain the delicate balance of carbon in the oceans.  The study sampled two geographically diverse isolates of the photosynthetic algal genus Micromonas: one from the South Pacific, the other from the English Channel. Surprisingly, the two isolates had about 90% of their genes in common compared to about 98% for humans and some primates.  Algae such as Micromonas were among the first cells on Earth to acquire the capacity to fix CO2 and use the energy from sunlight to generate biomass (the essential process of photosynthesis).  Worden said that the differences between these algae may make them more resilient compared to more closely related species, enabling them to better survive environmental change and their geographically diverse locations. These results help illuminate cellular processes that could be used to produce algae-derived biofuels. Scientists at DOE’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI) played an essential role in the research by carrying out the DNA sequencing and participating in the interpretation of the results. These findings are published in the April 10 edition of the journal Science.