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Apoptosis in algae could have implications for biofuels production

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A new study has shown the first evidence of programmed cell death, or apoptosis, in algae, which could have wide-reaching implications for the production of biofuels.

Results of the research carried out by University of Alberta (UAlberta) microbiologists were published in a paper titled ‘Phaeobacter inhibens induces apoptosis-like programmed cell death in calcifying Emiliania huxleyi’ in Scientific Reports. Previously, apoptosis was believed to only take place in multicellular organisms such as humans.

However, this new research offers evidence that bacterial pathogens living on single-cellular algae can cause apoptosis. “It is the first documentation of true apoptosis via bacterial pathogens in microorganisms like algae,” said Rebecca Case, associated professor in UAlberta’s Department of Biological Sciences.

In addition to aiding in the development of targeted antibiotics, the discovery could have important implications for the production of biofuels.

“Algae can also be used to create lipids for biofuels. If we can better understand their life cycles, we can find ways to keep them alive for longer, to produce more fuel for industry,” Case added.