Algae Transcription Factors That Increase Oil Production




In recent years, the interest in alternative fuel has grown rapidly. There are many different alternatives on the market, from corn oil to algae. The largest advantages of algae biofuel are that it is a renewable source of energy and that algae may be grown autotrophically using energy from the sun. Autotrophic growth helps reduce or avoid the “food v. fuel” debate related to corn ethanol and vegetable oil biodiesel.

There has been particular interest in algae, such as microalgae, that naturally accumulate oil, since this oil is readily converted into biodiesel. Microalgae are particularly important because of their ability to accumulate large quantities of oil, although generally under nutrient-deprived conditions. There is a need for improved biosynthetic oil gene regulation to create algae that accumulate oil under nutrient-rich growth conditions.


Description of Technology


Michigan State University’s invention is a set of algae transcription factors that increase oil production and decouple oil production from nutrient starvation. Specifically, this technology relates to using transcription factors that are responsible for turning on TAG production and accumulation in C. reinhardtii, with the goal of creating algae that accumulate oil under nutrient-rich or rapid growth conditions. The insights gained from understanding regulation of C. reinhardtii oil metabolism may be applicable to other microalgae.


Key Benefits

  • Transcription factors for oil production: Increase the amount of oil production from microalgae.
  • Removes growth rate restrictions: Allows oil production under nutrient-rich, high-growth conditions, thereby improving yields and lower extraction costs.
  • Flexible and efficient: Many strains and possibly species of microalgae can be genetically modified using the C. reinhardtii transcription factors, enabling oil production from the most efficient microalgae strains.
  • Ability to scale up technology: This system can be used to mass-produce algae for biofuel production.



  • Biofuel production
  • Specialty oil production
  • Food oil production


Patent Status


Patent pending




Christoph Benning


Tech ID




Patent Information:


For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University
Christoph Benning