Simultaneous CAS9 editing of cpSRP43, LHCA6, and LHCA7 in Picochlorum celeri lowers chlorophyll levels and improves biomass productivity

Plant Direct. 2023 Sep 12;7(9):e530. doi: 10.1002/pld3.530. eCollection 2023 Sep.


High cellular pigment levels in dense microalgal cultures contribute to excess light absorption. To improve photosynthetic yields in the marine microalga Picochlorum celeri, CAS9 gene editing was used to target the molecular chaperone cpSRP43. Depigmented strains (>50% lower chlorophyll) were generated, with proteomics showing attenuated levels of most light harvesting complex (LHC) proteins. Gene editing generated two types of cpSRP43 transformants with distinct lower pigment phenotypes: (i) a transformant (Δsrp43) with both cpSRP43 diploid alleles modified to encode non-functional polypeptides and (ii) a transformant (STR30309) with a 3 nt in-frame insertion in one allele at the CAS9 cut site (non-functional second allele), leading to expression of a modified cpSRP43. STR30309 has more chlorophyll than Δsrp43 but substantially less than wild type. To further decrease light absorption by photosystem I in STR30309, CAS9 editing was used to stack in disruptions of both LHCA6 and LHCA7 to generate STR30843, which has higher (5-24%) productivities relative to wild type in solar-simulating bioreactors. Maximal productivities required frequent partial harvests throughout the day. For STR30843, exemplary diel bioreactor yields of ~50 g m-2 day-1 were attained. Our results demonstrate diel productivity gains in P. celeri by lowering pigment levels.

PMID:37711644 | PMC:PMC10497401 | DOI:10.1002/pld3.530


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