WALNUT CREEK, CAOn the long and difficult road toward a carbon-neutral source of transportation fuels, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is pursuing a diversified approach. This effort involves exploring a range of potential new fuel sources in nature: from plants that may serve as cellulosic feedstocksfast-growing trees and perennial grasses on landto oil-producing organisms in aquatic and other environments, such as algae and bacteria.
One contribution that may inform biofuels research is reported in the July 9 issue of Science (http://bit.ly/aSGJc3), where researchers led by the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and the Salk Institute present the 138 million nucleotide genome of Volvox carteri, a multicellular alga that captures light energy through photosynthesis. The DOE is supporting research into the complex mechanisms present in photosynthetic organisms to better understand how they convert sunlight to energy and how photosynthetic cells control their metabolic processes so that this information can inform the production of renewable biofuels.
In the Science paper, the Volvox genome was compared with that of the unicellular alga and close relative Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, whose genome was made available three years ago by the DOE JGI. A major value of the Volvox sequence is as a comparison to that of Chlamydomonas, an alga extensively used for research on potential algal biofuel generation. Both algae belong to the Volvocales family, and researchers are using the comparative data to study both the ways photosynthetic mechanisms are used and the evolution of multicellular organisms. Unlike Chlamydomonas, Volvox contains two cell types, a small minority of reproductive germ cells and a large majority of non-reproductive somatic cells. The germ cells can divide to form new colonies, while the somatic cells provide motility and secrete an extrac
|Contact: David Gilbert|
DOE/Joint Genome Institute