• Emily Hounslow

Snow with a pinch of salt

New Paper: Quantitative proteomic comparison of salt stress in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and the snow alga Chlamydomonas nivalis reveals mechanisms for salt-triggered fatty acid accumulation via reallocation of carbon resources

My new first author publication compares two related species of algae, one which is referred to as a snow alga strain and the other a lab model strain. Only the snow alga responds to salt stress by accumulating fatty acids that can be used for biofuels, and we wanted to find out why.

This paper interprets a huge dataset containing millions of mass spectra via a comparative proteomic analysis to explore the cellular mechanisms that lead to this physiological difference. The snow alga doesn’t have a DNA sequence, and has therefore never been analysed using proteomic tools before (it really complicates matters!) but we were able to analyse it using its homology to the model species.

The snow alga (Chlamydomonas nivalis) shows great potential for biofuel production, especially when exposed to salt stress: this study shows that salt not only increased the accumulation of fatty acids in the algal biomass, but also improves the quality of the biofuel that can be produced from it. Several cellular mechanisms are highlighted that could be targeted for engineering better biofuel producers.

I worked as a postdoctoral researcher for the Pandhal research group a few years ago on a variety of biotechnology projects. Building on the work undertaken in this paper with large and complex datasets, I’m currently developing further data science skills, with an outlook of working with big data.

Twitter: @EmilyHounslow

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