Engineered production of isoprene from the model green microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

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11 Scopus citations


Isoprene is a clear, colorless, volatile 5-carbon hydrocarbon that is one monomer of all cellular isoprenoids and a platform chemical with multiple applications in industry. Many plants have evolved isoprene synthases (IspSs) with the capacity to liberate isoprene from dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMADP) as part of cellular thermotolerance mechanisms. Isoprene is hydrophobic and volatile, rapidly leaves plant tissues and is one of the main carbon emission sources from vegetation globally. The universality of isoprenoid metabolism allows volatile isoprene production from microbes expressing heterologous IspSs. Here, we compared heterologous overexpression from the nuclear genome and localization into the plastid of four plant terpene synthases (TPs) in the green microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Using sealed vial mixotrophic cultivation, direct quantification of isoprene production was achieved from the headspace of living cultures, with the highest isoprene production observed in algae expressing the Ipomoea batatas IspS. Perturbations of the downstream carotenoid pathway through keto carotenoid biosynthesis enhanced isoprene titers, which could be further enhanced by increasing flux towards DMADP through heterologous co-expression of a yeast isopentenyl-PP delta isomerase. Multiplexed controlled-environment testing revealed that cultivation temperature, rather than illumination intensity, was the main factor affecting isoprene yield from the engineered alga. This is the first report of heterologous isoprene production from a eukaryotic alga and sets a foundation for further exploration of carbon conversion to this commodity chemical.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e00221
JournalMetabolic Engineering Communications
StatePublished - Mar 23 2023

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2023-04-08
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank the KAUST Lab Equipment Maintenance (LEM) team and everyone involved in the setup and maintenance of the HS-GC-MS-FID, Dr. Najeh Kharbatia, Abdulkhalik M. Khalifa, and Gerard Clancy. KJL acknowledges baseline research funding provided by King Abdullah University of Science & Technology.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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