Diacylglycerol Acyltransferases Involved in Oil Biosynthesis in Microalgae




The need for the development of biomass-based domestic production systems for high energy liquid transportation fuels is widely recognized. Concerns related to environmental impact and the price of oil combined with political issues related to dependence on foreign oil have increased interest in alternative biofuels. Currently, transportation fuel is primarily derived from petroleum with increasing availability of biofuels, including ethanol derived from corn and biodiesel derived from soy and palms.


Description of Technology 


This technology relates to the identification of enzymes involved in oil biosynthesis in algae, which normally occurs under stress conditions (e.g., nutrient stress). Michigan State University has identified a candidate gene for the enzyme diacylglycerol acyltransferase in the Chlamydomonas genome that is strongly induced under oil-producing conditions. This gene could be ectopically expressed in genetically engineered strains of algae, resulting in high oil yields under normal conditions for the production of biofuels.


Key Benefits

  • Improved biofuel yields in algae: Genetically engineered algae based on the invention would increase yields, improving the economics of algae-based biofuel production.
  • Algae good biofuel alternative: Algae may be a better alternative to soy, ethanol, and other biofuels due to higher potential yields and its status as a nonfood crop.




The technology would be useful in biofuel production processes using algae, thereby benefiting the emerging renewable-energy market.


Patent Status


Patent pending




Christoph Benning, Rachel Miller, Eric Meollering


Tech ID




Patent Information:

For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University