High-throughput insertional mutagenesis reveals novel targets for enhancing lipid accumulation in Nannochloropsis oceanica

Christian Südfeld*, Michal Hubáček, Daniel Figueiredo, Mihris I.S. Naduthodi, John Van Der Oost, René H. Wijffels, Maria J. Barbosa, Sarah D'Adamo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


The microalga Nannochloropsis oceanica is considered a promising platform for the sustainable production of high-value lipids and biofuel feedstocks. However, current lipid yields of N. oceanica are too low for economic feasibility. Gaining fundamental insights into the lipid metabolism of N. oceanica could open up various possibilities for the optimization of this species through genetic engineering. Therefore, the aim of this study was to discover novel genes associated with an elevated neutral lipid content. We constructed an insertional mutagenesis library of N. oceanica, selected high lipid mutants by five rounds of fluorescence-activated cell sorting, and identified disrupted genes using a novel implementation of a rapid genotyping procedure. One particularly promising mutant (HLM23) was disrupted in a putative APETALA2-like transcription factor gene. HLM23 showed a 40%-increased neutral lipid content, increased photosynthetic performance, and no growth impairment. Furthermore, transcriptome analysis revealed an upregulation of genes related to plastidial fatty acid biosynthesis, glycolysis and the Calvin-Benson-Bassham cycle in HLM23. Insights gained in this work can be used in future genetic engineering strategies for increased lipid productivity of Nannochloropsis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-258
JournalMetabolic Engineering
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • FACS
  • Insertional mutagenesis
  • Microalgae
  • Nannochloropsis
  • Neutral lipid content


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