Sapphire Energy, Inc., has announced that Nucleic Acids Research Journal has published its white paper, “An Exogenous Chloroplast Genome for Complex Sequence Manipulation in Algae.” As the site of photosynthesis in plants and algae, the chloroplast is responsible for producing organic molecules from atmospheric CO2 and is thus a crucial metabolic engineering target. Sapphire cultivates algae that use sunlight and CO2 to create Green Crude, a low carbon renewable crude oil substitute that can be refined into jet fuel, diesel and gasoline.

This white paper describes methodology for the design, construction, modification, and cellular introduction of the chloroplast genome from the green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Using this methodology, the authors simultaneously modify multiple independent regions, including genes that encode core subunits of the photosynthetic apparatus, in the chloroplast genome of living algae cells.

“With this breakthrough, Sapphire Energy has shown that it is possible to make algae – the world’s most efficient photosynthetic organism – even more efficient,” said Jason Pyle, Sapphire Energy founder and CEO. “This work represents the first steps toward a novel approach for creating genetic diversity in any or all regions of a chloroplast genome, and may have applications in other plants.”

Chloroplast genomes present a unique opportunity for the field of synthetic biology, the researchers say. In a single, relatively small molecule, they encode the most important genes of photosynthesis, nature’s principle method for converting sunlight into chemical energy. These naturally minimized, manipulable genomes are of great interest for metabolic engineering for foods, fuels, and myriad bio-products, and are ideally suited target for synthetic biology.

At this time, Sapphire Energy is conducting advanced research into many aspects of algae growth, cultivation and lipid production in conjunction with multiple research institutions. The algae cultivated in the company’s outdoor ponds in New Mexico are not genetically modified.