Potential of industrial biotechnology with cyanobacteria and eukaryotic microalgae

R.H. Wijffels, O. Kruse, K.J. Hellingwerf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

309 Citations (Scopus)


Both cyanobacteria and eukaryotic microalgae are promising organisms for sustainable production of bulk products such as food, feed, materials, chemicals and fuels. In this review we will summarize the potential and current biotechnological developments.Cyanobacteria are promising host organisms for the production of small molecules that can be secreted such as ethanol, butanol, fatty acids and other organic acids. Eukaryotic microalgae are interesting for products for which cellular storage is important such as proteins, lipids, starch and alkanes.For the development of new and promising lines of production, strains of both cyanobacteria and eukaryotic microalgae have to be improved. Transformation systems have been much better developed in cyanobacteria. However, several products would be preferably produced with eukaryotic microalgae. In the case of cyanobacteria a synthetic-systems biology approach has a great potential to exploit cyanobacteria as cell factories. For eukaryotic microalgae transformation systems need to be further developed. A promising strategy is transformation of heterologous (prokaryotic and eukaryotic) genes in established eukaryotic hosts such as Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.Experimental outdoor pilots under containment for the production of genetically modified cyanobacteria and microalgae are in progress. For full scale production risks of release of genetically modified organisms need to be assessed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-413
Number of pages24
JournalCurrent Opinion in Biotechnology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • alga chlamydomonas-reinhardtii
  • botryococcus-braunii
  • photosynthetic production
  • biofuel production
  • protein-production
  • carbon-dioxide
  • genome
  • transformation
  • food
  • cell


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