The Algal Chloroplast as a Synthetic Biology Platform for Production of Therapeutic Proteins

Microbiology. 2018 Feb;164(2):113-121. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.000599. Epub 2018 Jan 3.


The chloroplast of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and other microalgae represents an attractive new platform for the synthesis of recombinant therapeutics using synthetic biology (synbio) approaches. Transgenes can be designed in silico, assembled from validated DNA parts and inserted at precise and predetermined locations within the chloroplast genome to give stable synthesis of a desired recombinant protein. Numerous recent examples of different therapeutic proteins produced successfully in the C. reinhardtii chloroplast highlight the potential of this green alga as a simple, low-cost and benign host. Furthermore, some of the features of the alga may offer additional advantages over more-established microbial, mammalian or plant-based systems. These include efficient folding and accumulation of the product in the chloroplast; a lack of contaminating toxins or infectious agents; reduced downstream processing requirements; the possibility to make complex therapeutics such as immunotoxins; and the opportunity to use the whole alga as a low-cost oral vaccine. In this paper we review the current status of algal chloroplast engineering with respect to therapeutic proteins. We also consider future advances in synbio tools, together with improvements to recipient strains, which will allow the design of bespoke strains with high levels of productivity.

Keywords: Chlamydomonas; algal chloroplast; synthetic biology; therapeutic proteins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii / cytology
  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii / genetics*
  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii / metabolism
  • Chloroplasts / genetics*
  • Chloroplasts / metabolism
  • Genome, Chloroplast / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / cytology
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Synthetic Biology* / trends


  • Recombinant Proteins