Heterologous Expression of Formate Dehydrogenase Enables Photoformatotrophy in the Emerging Model Microalga, Picochlorum renovo

Lukas Dahlin, Alex Meyers, Skylar Stefani, Ellsbeth Webb, Benton Wachter, Venkat Subramanian, Michael Guarnieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus Citations


Rising global greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of resultant climate change necessitate development and deployment of carbon capture and conversion technologies. Amongst the myriad of bio-based conversion approaches under evaluation, a formate bio-economy has recently been proposed, wherein CO2-derived formate serves as a substrate for concurrent carbon and energy delivery to microbial systems. To date, this approach has been explored in chemolithotrophic and heterotrophic organisms via native or engineered formatotrophy. However, utilization of this concept in phototrophic organisms has yet to be reported. Herein, we have taken the first steps to establish formate utilization in Picochlorum renovo, a recently characterized eukaryotic microalga with facile genetic tools and promising applied biotechnology traits. Plastidial heterologous expression of a formate dehydrogenase (FDH) enabled P. renovo growth on formate as a carbon and energy source. Further, FDH expression enhanced cultivation capacity on ambient CO2, underscoring the potential for bypass of conventional CO2 capture and concentration limitations. This work establishes a photoformatotrophic cultivation regime that leverages light energy-driven formate utilization. The resultant photosynthetic formate platform has widespread implications for applied phototrophic cultivation systems and the bio-economy at large.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1162745
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Dahlin, Meyers, Stefani, Webb, Wachter, Subramanian and Guarnieri.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-85197


  • bio-economy
  • dehydrogenase
  • formate
  • formate bio-economy
  • microalgae
  • photoformatotrophy
  • phototroph
  • Picochlorum


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