Microalgae constitute a diverse group of eukaryotic unicellular organisms that are of interest for pure and applied research. Owing to their natural synthesis of value-added natural products microalgae are emerging as a source of sustainable chemical compounds, proteins and metabolites, including but not limited to those that could replace compounds currently made from fossil fuels. For the model microalga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, this has prompted a period of rapid development so that this organism is poised for exploitation as an industrial biotechnology platform. The question now is how best to achieve this? Highly advanced industrial biotechnology systems using bacteria and yeasts were established in a classical metabolic engineering manner over several decades. However, the advent of advanced molecular tools and the rise of synthetic biology provide an opportunity to expedite the development of C. reinhardtii as an industrial biotechnology platform, avoiding the process of incremental improvement. In this review we describe the current status of genetic manipulation of C. reinhardtii for metabolic engineering. We then introduce several concepts that underpin synthetic biology, and show how generic parts are identified and used in a standard manner to achieve predictable outputs. Based on this we suggest that the development of C. reinhardtii as an industrial biotechnology platform can be achieved more efficiently through adoption of a synthetic biology approach.
Keywords: Chlamydomonas reinhardtii; industrial biotechnology; metabolic engineering; rational design; synthetic biology; transgene expression.
© 2015 The Authors The Plant Journal published by Society for Experimental Biology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.