The nucleolus as a genomic safe harbor for strong gene expression in Nannochloropsis oceanica
Microalgae are used in food and feed, and they are considered a potential feedstock for sustainably produced chemicals and biofuel. However, production of microalgal-derived chemicals is not yet economically feasible. Genetic engineering could bridge the gap to industrial application and facilitate the production of novel products from microalgae. Here, we report the discovery of a novel gene expression system in the oleaginous microalga Nannochloropsis that exploits the highly efficient transcriptional activity of RNA polymerase I and an internal ribosome entry site for translation. We identified the nucleolus as a genomic safe harbor for Pol I transcription and used it to construct transformant strains with consistently strong transgene expression. The new expression system provides an outstanding tool for genetic and metabolic engineering of microalgae and thus will probably make substantial contributions to microalgal research.
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