Alghe arcobaleno

Scientists produce rainbow colored algae

Scientists based at UC San Diego have engineered a green alga into a rainbow of different colors. The object is to allow different algae to be differentiated as part of biofuel research and drug development.

Biologists have genetically engineered a green alga called Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, into a rainbow of different colors by producing six different colored fluorescent proteins in the algae cells.

Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is a single celled green alga widely distributed worldwide in soil and fresh water.

The image below shows what the normal green species looks like:

Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (green algae)

University of Cambridge
Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (green algae)

This second image shows the ‘rainbow’ modified versions of the algae:

Chlamydomonas reinhardtii  genetically modified to show different colors.

Beth Rasala
Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, genetically modified to show different colors.

The objective of the research was to allow biologists to sort between different kinds of cells, allow scientists to view cellular structures, and to create “fusion proteins,” allowing scientists to follow a protein around the cell.

This will allow biologists, who work on algae, to make biotechnology developments more rapidly, such as biofuels or new human and animal therapeutic medicines. Algae are quite often used for new drug development. For example, researchers based at UC San Diego succeeded in genetically engineering algae to produce a human therapeutic drug used to treat cancer; and another research group created a compound derived from algae for patients suffering from pulmonary emphysema.

With biofuels, algae provide an alternative produce a large amount of fuel without encroaching on agricultural land. Recent research has used Chlamydomonas to identify which metabolic processes are particularly important for use as a biofuel.

The research was undertaken by UC San Diego biologists and it has been published in The Plant Journal. The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission.

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