Metabolic systems analysis to advance algal biotechnology

Brian J. Schmidt, Xiefan Lin-Schmidt, Austin Chamberlin, Kourosh Salehi-Ashtiani, Jason A. Papin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Algal fuel sources promise unsurpassed yields in a carbon neutral manner that minimizes resource competition between agriculture and fuel crops. Many challenges must be addressed before algal biofuels can be accepted as a component of the fossil fuel replacement strategy. One significant challenge is that the cost of algal fuel production must become competitive with existing fuel alternatives. Algal biofuel production presents the opportunity to fine-tune microbial metabolic machinery for an optimal blend of biomass constituents and desired fuel molecules. Genome-scale model-driven algal metabolic design promises to facilitate both goals by directing the utilization of metabolites in the complex, interconnected metabolic networks to optimize production of the compounds of interest. Network analysis can direct microbial development efforts towards successful strategies and enable quantitative fine-tuning of the network for optimal product yields while maintaining the robustness of the production microbe. Metabolic modeling yields insights into microbial function, guides experiments by generating testable hypotheses, and enables the refinement of knowledge on the specific organism. While the application of such analytical approaches to algal systems is limited to date, metabolic network analysis can improve understanding of algal metabolic systems and play an important role in expediting the adoption of new biofuel technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)660-670
Number of pages11
JournalBiotechnology Journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Algae
  • Biofuels
  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii
  • Flux balance analysis
  • Metabolic network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Molecular Medicine


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