One of the primary activities in our group is to study gene expression in marine algae, in particular the diatoms (Bacillariophycea).
This is a group of unicellular photosynthetic eukaryotes which is found in freshwater and oceans worldwide and is a primary source of food for many aquatic organisms. They also have wide range of applications in the environmental and earth sciences and in the future they may become an important source of lipids for biofuel. We are currently studying how genes in marine algae are regulated in response to various abiotic exposures and are using the genomes and transcriptome information available to identify novel genes and processes.
One of the limitations until now has been to create loss of function mutants (knockouts) in diatoms or do gene alterations to specific genes. With the development of new tools for genome editing this is about to change. We are currently setting up a system to perform genome editing P. tricornutum, using the CRISPR-Cas9 technology. Processes we are currently investigating are coupled to light responses and nutrients. The genome editing technology may also be expanded to include other marine algae and organisms in the near future.