Synthetic biology for improved hydrogen production in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

Samuel J. King, Ante Jerkovic, Louise J. Brown, Kerstin Petroll*, Robert D. Willows*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)
    61 Downloads (Pure)


    Hydrogen is a clean alternative to fossil fuels. It has applications for electricity generation and transportation and is used for the manufacturing of ammonia and steel. However, today, H2 is almost exclusively produced from coal and natural gas. As such, methods to produce H2 that do not use fossil fuels need to be developed and adopted. The biological manufacturing of H2 may be one promising solution as this process is clean and renewable. Hydrogen is produced biologically via enzymes called hydrogenases. There are three classes of hydrogenases namely [FeFe], [NiFe] and [Fe] hydrogenases. The [FeFe] hydrogenase HydA1 from the model unicellular algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii has been studied extensively and belongs to the A1 subclass of [FeFe] hydrogenases that have the highest turnover frequencies amongst hydrogenases (21,000 ± 12,000 H2 s−1 for CaHydA from Clostridium acetobutyliticum). Yet to date, limitations in C. reinhardtii H2 production pathways have hampered commercial scale implementation, in part due to O2 sensitivity of hydrogenases and competing metabolic pathways, resulting in low H2 production efficiency. Here, we describe key processes in the biogenesis of HydA1 and H2 production pathways in C. reinhardtii. We also summarize recent advancements of algal H2 production using synthetic biology and describe valuable tools such as high-throughput screening (HTS) assays to accelerate the process of engineering algae for commercial biological H2 production.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1946-1965
    Number of pages20
    JournalMicrobial Biotechnology
    Issue number7
    Early online date26 Mar 2022
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

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    Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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