Molecular techniques to interrogate and edit the Chlamydomonas nuclear genome

Plant J. 2015 May;82(3):393-412. doi: 10.1111/tpj.12801. Epub 2015 Mar 16.


The success of the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as a model organism is to a large extent due to the wide range of molecular techniques that are available for its characterization. Here, we review some of the techniques currently used to modify and interrogate the C. reinhardtii nuclear genome and explore several technologies under development. Nuclear mutants can be generated with ultraviolet (UV) light and chemical mutagens, or by insertional mutagenesis. Nuclear transformation methods include biolistic delivery, agitation with glass beads, and electroporation. Transforming DNA integrates into the genome at random sites, and multiple strategies exist for mapping insertion sites. A limited number of studies have demonstrated targeted modification of the nuclear genome by approaches such as zinc-finger nucleases and homologous recombination. RNA interference is widely used to knock down expression levels of nuclear genes. A wide assortment of transgenes has been successfully expressed in the Chlamydomonas nuclear genome, including transformation markers, fluorescent proteins, reporter genes, epitope tagged proteins, and even therapeutic proteins. Optimized expression constructs and strains help transgene expression. Emerging technologies such as the CRISPR/Cas9 system, high-throughput mutant identification, and a whole-genome knockout library are being developed for this organism. We discuss how these advances will propel future investigations.

Keywords: Chlamydomonas reinhardtii; genetics; genome editing; markers; molecular tools; nuclear genome; reporters; transformation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Chlamydomonas / drug effects
  • Chlamydomonas / genetics*
  • Chromosome Mapping / methods
  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Genetic Markers
  • Genetic Techniques*
  • Genome, Plant
  • Homologous Recombination
  • Molecular Biology / methods*
  • Mutagenesis
  • Mutagens / pharmacology
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • RNA Interference
  • Transformation, Genetic


  • Genetic Markers
  • Mutagens