Genome engineering empowers the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum for biotechnology

Nat Commun. 2014 May 29;5:3831. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4831.


Diatoms, a major group of photosynthetic microalgae, have a high biotechnological potential that has not been fully exploited because of the paucity of available genetic tools. Here we demonstrate targeted and stable modifications of the genome of the marine diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum, using both meganucleases and TALE nucleases. When nuclease-encoding constructs are co-transformed with a selectable marker, high frequencies of genome modifications are readily attained with 56 and 27% of the colonies exhibiting targeted mutagenesis or targeted gene insertion, respectively. The generation of an enhanced lipid-producing strain (45-fold increase in triacylglycerol accumulation) through the disruption of the UDP-glucose pyrophosphorylase gene exemplifies the power of genome engineering to harness diatoms for biofuel production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Biotechnology*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded
  • Diatoms / genetics*
  • Endonucleases / metabolism
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Genetic Engineering / methods*
  • Genome*
  • Genotype
  • Lipids / biosynthesis
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis / genetics
  • Mutation Rate
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism
  • Triglycerides / analysis


  • Lipids
  • Trans-Activators
  • Triglycerides
  • Endonucleases