NorthenLab: Exometabolomics linking genomes with environments to understand how webs of microbes sustain biomes

Algal metabolism

[su_spoiler title=”Algal lipidomics” open=”no” style=”default” icon=”plus” anchor=”” class=””]

Image credit: Northen Lab

Microalgae have drawn increasing attention as a promising approach for sustainable bioenergy given their high lipid content. Unfortunately, lipid production is difficult to control. Excitingly, the green alga Chromochloris zofingiensis has been found to accumulate large quantities of lipid in response to glucose, making it a powerful system for the discovering of new approaches to control algal metabolism.

We use high resolution mass spectrometry-based lipidomics and metabolomics analysis to understand metabolic regulation of Chromochloris zofingiensis when switched from photosynthetic to growth on glucose.  This multi-omics systems analysis will improve the understanding trophic transitions between photoautotrophic and heterotrophic growth. Our approach can help inform the design high-level production of lipids in algae for widely scalable algal biomass production.

Recent highlights:


Roth, Melissa S., et al. “Regulation of oxygenic photosynthesis during trophic transitions in the green alga Chromochloris zofingiensis.”The Plant Cell 31.3 (2019): 579-601.

[su_spoiler title=”Phycosphere interactions” open=”no” style=”default” icon=”plus” anchor=”” class=””]

Phaeodactylum tricornutum. Image credit: Vanessa Brisson

We are trying to understand algal-bacterial interactions, metabolite exchange, and resource allocation in the phycosphere of biofuels-relevant algae.

We utilize targeted and untargeted metabolomics of exo-metabolites, starting with algal and bacterial isolates and building up to co-cultures and complex communities. If we can better understand these interactions, it will improve our knowledge of microbial interactions and resource allocation in marine and freshwater ecosystems. It will also help us understand the factors impacting algal biofuel system productivity.