In metabolic engineering of eukaryotic microalgae: Potential and challenges come with great diversity

Javier A. Gimpel, Vitalia Henríquez, Stephen P. Mayfield

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


The great phylogenetic diversity of microalgae is corresponded by a wide arrange of interesting and useful metabolites. Nonetheless metabolic engineering in microalgae has been limited, since specific transformation tools must be developed for each species for either the nuclear or chloroplast genomes. Microalgae as production platforms for metabolites offer several advantages over plants and other microorganisms, like the ability of GMO containment and reduced costs in culture media, respectively. Currently, microalgae have proved particularly well suited for the commercial production of omega-3 fatty acids and carotenoids. Therefore most metabolic engineering strategies have been developed for these metabolites. Microalgal biofuels have also drawn great attention recently, resulting in efforts for improving the production of hydrogen and photosynthates, particularly triacylglycerides. Metabolic pathways of microalgae have also been manipulated in order to improve photosynthetic growth under specific conditions and for achieving trophic conversion. Although these pathways are not strictly related to secondary metabolites, the synthetic biology approaches could potentially be translated to this field and will also be discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number01376
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberDEC
StatePublished - 2015


  • Biodiesel
  • Biohydrogen
  • Carotenoids
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Microalgae
  • PUFA
  • Photosynthesis
  • Transformation


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