Molecular and Biochemical Characterization of Hydrocarbon Production in the Green Microalga Botryococcus braunii
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Botryococcus braunii (Chlorophyta, Botryococcaceae) is a colony-forming green microalga that produces large amounts of liquid hydrocarbons, which can be converted into transportation fuels. While B. braunii has been well studied for the chemistry of the hydrocarbon production, very little is known about the molecular biology of B. braunii. As such, this study developed both apparatus and techniques to culture B. braunii for use in the genetic and biochemical characterization. During genetic studies, the genome size was determined of a representative strain of each of the three races of B. braunii, A, B, and L, that are distinguished based on the type of hydrocarbon each produces. Flow cytometry analysis indicates that the A race, Yamanaka strain, of B. braunii has a genome size of 166.0 +/- 0.4 Mb, which is similar to the B race, Berkeley strain, with a genome size of 166 +/- 2.2 Mb, while the L race, Songkla Nakarin strain, has a substantially larger genome size at 211.3 +/- 1.7 Mb. Phylogenetic analysis with the nuclear small subunit (18S) rRNA and actin genes were used to classify multiple strains of A, B, and L races. These analyses suggest that the evolutionary relationship between B. braunii races is correlated with the type of liquid hydrocarbon they produce. Biochemical studies of B. braunii primarily focused on the B race, because it uniquely produces large amounts of botryococcenes that can be used as a fuel for internal combustion engines. C30 botryococcene is metabolized by methylation to generate intermediates of C31, C32, C33, and C34. Raman spectroscopy was used to characterize the structure of botryococcenes. The spectral region from 1600?1700 cm^-1 showed v(C=C) stretching bands specific for botryococcenes. Distinct botryococcene Raman bands at 1640 and 1647 cm^-1 were assigned to the stretching of the C=C bond in the botryococcene branch and the exomethylene C=C bonds produced by the methylations, respectively. A Raman band at 1670 cm^-1 was assigned to the backbone C=C bond stretching. Finally, confocal Raman microspectroscopy was used to map the presence and location of methylated botryococcenes within a living colony of B. braunii cells.
18S rRNA sequences
Weiss, Taylor Leigh (2012). Molecular and Biochemical Characterization of Hydrocarbon Production in the Green Microalga Botryococcus braunii. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from