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J Biotechnol. 2009 Jun 1;142(1):10-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiotec.2009.02.008. Epub 2009 Feb 21.

From systems biology to fuel--Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as a model for a systems biology approach to improve biohydrogen production.

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Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, Am Muehlenberg 1, 14476 Potsdam-Golm, Germany.


With economic wealth the need for energy is rising. Hence we are facing two problems: to satisfy the increasing energy demand and concomitantly deliver emission-free energy to avoid global warming. The process of photosynthesis offers a natural and highly efficient method to produce emission-neutral biofuels. However, using higher plants for such purposes causes several problems which are difficult to overcome and includes competition with food producing agriculture in terms of arable land, the need for fresh water, low process efficiency and the application of energy-intensive fertilizer in order to enhance growth performance. Photosynthetic microorganisms and, in particular, microalgae offer an alternative approach. In this case production sites in photo-bioreactors can be located on cheap, rural land and the organisms can be cultured in sea water rather than fresh water. However microorganisms are not naturally adapted as efficient producers of biofuels. Due to the complex regulatory network and mutual interaction of physiological processes and organelles, identifying the optimal production strategy is impossible without a greater understanding of the complex interplay of all cellular processes. Systems biology has emerged recently as a discipline to gain an understanding of these networks and their translation into a mathematical in silico model. An in silico model allows simulating optimization steps and, therefore, provides a useful method to identify targets for directed genetic/physiological modification to optimize the system for a biotechnological approach.

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