Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2012

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School



Biological Sciences

Program or Major


First Advisor

Subhash Minocha


Biodiesel produced from algal lipids is a promising source of renewable energy. Reasons for using algae, as opposed to vascular plants, are numerous. Oleaginous algae do not require fertile land or fresh water to grow, and therefore do not compete with food crop resources. Algae have short generation times and higher growth rates than larger vascular plants allowing for synthesis and accumulation of large quantities of neutral lipids, about 20-50% of the dry cell weight, in a short period of time. The efficiency of biodiesel production from oleaginous algae could be improved by using transgenic (genetically engineered) algae. The goal of this research is to develop techniques for transforming algae species from the genus Dunaliella to increase its carbon sequestration capability and lipid biosynthesis. It has been learned in our lab that increased biosynthesis of polyamines can positively influence carbon sequestration; other labs have shown that enzymes involved in triacylglycerol (TAG) synthesis can enhance lipid production. To genetically engineer Dunaliella, in addition to genes, promoters are also needed to regulate the expression of these genes. Currently we are working on cloning the promoters for highly expressed genes, i.e. actin, ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase (RuBisCO), and light-harvesting complex II apoprotein (cab4). These promoters will be recombined with the polyamine biosynthetic genes already cloned and introduced into the algal cell for a high degree of expression.