Genetic engineering of microalgae for enhanced lipid production

Camilo F. Muñoz, Christian Südfeld, Mihris I.S. Naduthodi, Ruud A. Weusthuis, Maria J. Barbosa, René H. Wijffels, Sarah D'Adamo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Microalgae have the potential to become microbial cell factories for lipid production. Their ability to convert sunlight and CO2 into valuable lipid compounds has attracted interest from cosmetic, biofuel, food and feed industries. In order to make microalgae-derived products cost-effective and commercially competitive, enhanced growth rates and lipid productivities are needed, which require optimization of cultivation systems and strain improvement. Advances in genetic tool development and omics technologies have increased our understanding of lipid metabolism, which has opened up possibilities for targeted metabolic engineering. In this review we provide a comprehensive overview on the developments made to genetically engineer microalgal strains over the last 30 years. We focus on the strategies that lead to an increased lipid content and altered fatty acid profile. These include the genetic engineering of the fatty acid synthesis pathway, Kennedy pathway, polyunsaturated fatty acid and triacylglycerol metabolisms and fatty acid catabolism. Moreover, genetic engineering of specific transcription factors, NADPH generation and central carbon metabolism, which lead to increase of lipid accumulation are also reviewed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107836
JournalBiotechnology Advances
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2021


  • Fatty acids
  • Gene editing
  • Genetic engineering
  • Heterologous expression
  • Microalgae
  • Omics
  • Overexpression
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)
  • Triacylglycerols (TAG)


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