Microalgae are a vital source of food in aquaculture, and a potential source of new molecules, whether of natural origin or produced by recombinant expression.
The physiology of microalgae is still poorly know, and understanding the mechanisms characteristic of this very diverse group is key to their exploitation. It is clear that knowledge of the major metabolic pathways and the modifications environmental variation brings about, as much at cell level as in the population as a whole, will provide us with the means to adapt, control and optimise culture development to meet set objectives.
The laboratory is divided into two teams:
The "Ecophysiology" team studies relationships between microalgae and their environment, and the effects of such relationships on the growth and biochemical composition of marine microalgae. Original experimental tools developed in-house allow us to study the influence of abiotic factors such as light, mineral nutrition, temperature and pH, and characterise each individual species. Relationships between microalgae and their microbiological environment constitute a second area for investigation.
The "Algae and Genomes" team applies biochemal and molecular approaches to study microalgae metabolisms inherent to defined physiological conditions. Functional genomics tools are utilised to identify and characterise genes and metabolic pathways of interest that could reveal biotechnological potential. Another line of enquiry applies genetic engineering approaches to functional studies using inverse genetics, and to use the potential of microalgae as cell factories.