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, 280 (40), 34170-7

Improved Photobiological H2 Production in Engineered Green Algal Cells

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Improved Photobiological H2 Production in Engineered Green Algal Cells

Olaf Kruse et al. J Biol Chem.

Abstract

Oxygenic photosynthetic organisms use solar energy to split water (H2O) into protons (H+), electrons (e-), and oxygen. A select group of photosynthetic microorganisms, including the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, has evolved the additional ability to redirect the derived H+ and e- to drive hydrogen (H2) production via the chloroplast hydrogenases HydA1 and A2 (H2 ase). This process occurs under anaerobic conditions and provides a biological basis for solar-driven H2 production. However, its relatively poor yield is a major limitation for the economic viability of this process. To improve H2 production in Chlamydomonas, we have developed a new approach to increase H+ and e- supply to the hydrogenases. In a first step, mutants blocked in the state 1 transition were selected. These mutants are inhibited in cyclic e- transfer around photosystem I, eliminating possible competition for e- with H2ase. Selected strains were further screened for increased H2 production rates, leading to the isolation of Stm6. This strain has a modified respiratory metabolism, providing it with two additional important properties as follows: large starch reserves (i.e. enhanced substrate availability), and a low dissolved O2 concentration (40% of the wild type (WT)), resulting in reduced inhibition of H2ase activation. The H2 production rates of Stm6 were 5-13 times that of the control WT strain over a range of conditions (light intensity, culture time, +/- uncoupler). Typically, approximately 540 ml of H2 liter(-1) culture (up to 98% pure) were produced over a 10-14-day period at a maximal rate of 4 ml h(-1) (efficiency = approximately 5 times the WT). Stm6 therefore represents an important step toward the development of future solar-powered H2 production systems.

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