From Science Daily, a team of researchers led by University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Professor Joe Chappell is making a connection between the Botryococcus braunii, species of algae and the oil and coal formed by the organisms over 500 million years ago.

Tom Niehaus, completing his doctorate in the Chappell laboratory; Shigeru Okada, a sabbatical professor from the aquatic biosciences department at the University of Tokyo; Tim Devarenne, a UK graduate and now professor of biochemistry and biophysics at Texas A&M University; and UK colleagues, Chappell, David Watt, professor of cellular and molecular biochemistry (College of Medicine) and his post-doctoral associate Vitaliy Sviripa report their latest research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

According to the researchers, B. braunii are very slow growing algae, so the organism is not necessarily a good source for biofuels. However, if scientists can capture its genetic blueprints for the biosynthesis of these high value oils, then these genes could be used to generate alternative production platforms.

“This study identifies a very remarkable molecular mechanism for the production of hydrocarbons that, as far as we can tell, is not found in any other organism. Thus, it offers a unique insight into how hydrocarbons were produced hundreds of millions of years ago,” said Devarenne.

Read the full story