Birth of a Photosynthetic Chassis: Microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

An European collaboration that has included researchers in the OpenPlant labs of Prof. David Baulcombe, Prof. Alison Smith and Prof. Jim Haseloff has resulted in the publication of a key paper in ACS Synthetic Biology aiming to establish Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as a chassis for synthetic biology. As part of this effort, the authors have developed and characterised 119 openly distributed genetic parts.

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Crozet P, Navarro FJ, Willmund F, Mehrshahi P, Bakowski K, Lauersen KJ, Pérez-Pérez ME, Auroy P, Gorchs Rovira A, Sauret-Gueto S, Niemeyer J, Spaniol B, Theis J, Trösch R, Westrich LD, Vavitsas K, Baier T, Hübner W, de Carpentier F, Cassarini M, Danon A, Henri J, Marchand CH, de Mia M, Sarkissian K, Baulcombe DC, Peltier G, Crespo JL, Kruse O, Jensen PE, Schroda M, Smith AG, Lemaire SD. Birth of a Photosynthetic Chassis: A MoClo Toolkit Enabling Synthetic Biology in the Microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. ACS Synth Biol. 2018 Sep 21;7(9):2074-2086. doi: 10.1021/acssynbio.8b00251.


Microalgae are regarded as promising organisms to develop innovative concepts based on their photosynthetic capacity that offers more sustainable production than heterotrophic hosts. However, to realize their potential as green cell factories, a major challenge is to make microalgae easier to engineer. A promising approach for rapid and predictable genetic manipulation is to use standardized synthetic biology tools and workflows. To this end we have developed a Modular Cloning toolkit for the green microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. It is based on Golden Gate cloning with standard syntax, and comprises 119 openly distributed genetic parts, most of which have been functionally validated in several strains. It contains promoters, UTRs, terminators, tags, reporters, antibiotic resistance genes, and introns cloned in various positions to allow maximum modularity. The toolkit enables rapid building of engineered cells for both fundamental research and algal biotechnology. This work will make Chlamydomonas the next chassis for sustainable synthetic biology.