A Synthetic Transcription Factor and Core Promoter System in Picochlorum renovo Enables Tunable Gene Expression

Research output: NRELPoster


Picochlorum renovo is a recently characterized microalga of industrial interest. Its rapid growth rate, and high temperature and salinity tolerances make P. renovo an attractive candidate for industrial scale cultivation and downstream production of sustainable fuels and chemicals. Currently, genetic tools for many non-model microalgae are limited and would greatly benefit from an orthogonal gene expression system to bypass host regulation. Additionally, the engineering of complex metabolic pathways in eukaryotic organisms to optimize growth or biosynthesize high value products often requires tunable expression of each gene in a pathway. Here we explore a tunable orthogonal gene expression system using a synthetic transcription factor (sTF) and core promoters (CPs) conferring expression of the fluorescent protein mCherry to quantify protein expression. The sTF paired with the relevant binding site (BS) led to an ~5X increase in reporter gene expression compared to the native RuBisCo promoter, however had limited tunability with increasing BS number. Quantification of mCherry expression under 34 different CPs paired with the sTF and BS showed an order of magnitude of expression tunability. Future work with this system will entail generation of an overexpression library via random integration of the relevant BS in an sTF expressing P. renovo strain. With this sTF and CP system we aim to greatly improve growth rates and product titers in photosynthetic organisms, while also providing a potentially universal gene expression system for microalgae.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the International Conference on Algal Biomass, Biofuels and Bioproducts (AlgalBBB 2023), 12-14 June 2023, Waikoloa Beach, Hawaii

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-2700-86341


  • algae
  • gene expression
  • promoter
  • synthetic transcription factor


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