A novel cost effective and high-throughput isolation and identification method for marine microalgae

Plant Methods. 2014 Aug 7:10:26. doi: 10.1186/1746-4811-10-26. eCollection 2014.


Background: Marine microalgae are of major ecologic and emerging economic importance. Biotechnological screening schemes of microalgae for specific traits and laboratory experiments to advance our knowledge on algal biology and evolution strongly benefit from culture collections reflecting a maximum of the natural inter- and intraspecific diversity. However, standard procedures for strain isolation and identification, namely DNA extraction, purification, amplification, sequencing and taxonomic identification still include considerable constraints increasing the time required to establish new cultures.

Results: In this study, we report a cost effective and high-throughput isolation and identification method for marine microalgae. The throughput was increased by applying strain isolation on plates and taxonomic identification by direct PCR (dPCR) of phylogenetic marker genes in combination with a novel sequencing electropherogram based screening method to assess the taxonomic diversity and identity of the isolated cultures. For validation of the effectiveness of this approach, we isolated and identified a range of unialgal cultures from natural phytoplankton communities sampled in the Arctic Ocean. These cultures include the isolate of a novel marine Chlorophyceae strain among several different diatoms.

Conclusions: We provide an efficient and effective approach leading from natural phytoplankton communities to isolated and taxonomically identified algal strains in only a few weeks. Validated with sensitive Arctic phytoplankton, this approach overcomes the constraints of standard molecular characterisation and establishment of unialgal cultures.

Keywords: Cultivation; Direct PCR; Isolation; Marine microalgae; Taxonomy.