AlgaePARC continuously strives to advance our understanding of the physiological processes occurring in the cell that lead to growth and the production of valuable biomolecules. Deeper understanding of these processes and their regulation under various cultivation conditions allows us to find targets for strain improvement and cultivation optimisation. Microalgae and cyanobacteria are performing a large number of chemical reactions in order to grow and produce the different valuable compounds. These reactions are carried out by enzymes. Information with regards to which enzymes can be present in the cell is enclosed in the genetic code of each species. To provide insight into the complex network of processes that govern cell physiology, we study the cells at various levels:
The transcriptome refers to the set of mRNA that is present in a cell. A mRNA molecule is a copy of an active gene. The genetic code present in the mRNA is translated into a protein. By qualifying mRNA we obtain information on the active part of the genome, and by quantifying the relative amounts of mRNA
we can assess the effect of certain cultivation conditions on gene expression.
All processes that can occur in the cell are encoded in genes, small pieces of genomic information that
are encoded in the DNA. A gene encodes a specific enzyme, which in turn is responsible for a specific reaction in the cell. For several microalgae this genetic code, the genome, has become available. However, for many genes we do not yet know for which enzyme they code. In various research programs, AlgaePARC and its partners are involved in the process of unravelling the genetic code of many of our household strains, such as Nannochloropsis sp, Neochloris oleoabundans, Scenedesmus obliquus, Pheaodactylum tricornutum and Bottryococcus Braunii.
Enzymes are proteins, and the proteome thus refers to ‘the entire set of proteins expressed by a genome, cell, tissue or organism at a certain time.’ By studying the type and amounts of enzymes present in our microalgae, we learn more about the regulation of gene expression and metabolic processes.
All the substrates and products of chemical reactions taking place in the microalgal biomass taken together are called the metabolome. At AlgaePARC, we can measure small molecules (metabolites) that take part in these reactions, but also the final products, macromolecules such as lipids and sugars, which
are the building blocks of microalgal cells. With these measurements, we get an insight into which growth conditions result in what biomass composition.
Based on genomic or transcriptomics information, a map of all possible enzymatic reactions is
constructed; a metabolic model. With FBA (flux balance analysis) we use measured rates as input for a
metabolic model and calculate the rates at which reactions are taking place inside the cells. These rates
together are referred to as the fluxome. The fluxome gives information of the flow of carbon and energy
inside the cell.
Together, the genome, transcriptome, proteome, metabolome and fluxome provide a multidimensional
insight in the complexity of microalgal cellular processes.
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