New Method for Delivering Biologically Active Molecules into Algae Cells


Algae can produce a wide variety of biofuels, chemical building blocks, nutrients, and proteins using sunlight as an energy source and carbon dioxide or other simple carbon compounds. DOE scientists at Lawrence Berkeley Lab have developed a new method to deliver radioactive or fluorescently labeled small molecules or protein probes into algal cells to monitor cellular messengers such as mRNA, gene expression or to develop biosensors. A molecular probe’s ability to pass through the cell membrane is often restricted by its water and lipid solubility. The new method overcomes these restrictions, enabling transport of molecules across the cell wall and membrane barriers. The transporter technology is broadly applicable and can be used for the delivery of labeled probes into algal cells for the development of sensitive biological assays for dynamic imaging of gene expression. The technique is being further developed to transport genetic materials and for probing changes in the carbon metabolism of these cells. These advances will enable scientists to improve algae as a tool for a wide variety of applications.


Hyman, J. M., E. I. Geihe, B. M. Trantow, B. Parvin, and P. A. Wender. 2012 “A Molecular Method for the Delivery of Small Molecules and Proteins Across the Cell Wall of Algae Using Molecular Transporters,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 109(33), 13,225-230. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1202509109.