Biotechnological exploitation of microalgae.

07 September 2015

Microalgae are a diverse group of single-cell photosynthetic organisms that include cyanobacteria and a wide range of eukaryotic algae. A number of microalgae contain high-value compounds such as oils, colorants, and polysaccharides, which are used by the food additive, oil, and cosmetic industries, among others. They offer the potential for rapid growth under photoautotrophic conditions, and they can grow in a wide range of habitats. More recently, the development of genetic tools means that a number of species can be transformed and hence used as cell factories for the production of high-value chemicals or recombinant proteins. In this article, we review exploitation use of microalgae with a special emphasis on genetic engineering approaches to develop cell factories, and the use of synthetic ecology approaches to maximize productivity. We discuss the success stories in these areas, the hurdles that need to be overcome, and the potential for expanding the industry in general.