Molecular techniques to interrogate and edit the Chlamydomonas nuclear genome

Robert E. Jinkerson, Martin C. Jonikas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


Summary The success of the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as a model organism is to a large extent due to the wide range of molecular techniques that are available for its characterization. Here, we review some of the techniques currently used to modify and interrogate the C. reinhardtii nuclear genome and explore several technologies under development. Nuclear mutants can be generated with ultraviolet (UV) light and chemical mutagens, or by insertional mutagenesis. Nuclear transformation methods include biolistic delivery, agitation with glass beads, and electroporation. Transforming DNA integrates into the genome at random sites, and multiple strategies exist for mapping insertion sites. A limited number of studies have demonstrated targeted modification of the nuclear genome by approaches such as zinc-finger nucleases and homologous recombination. RNA interference is widely used to knock down expression levels of nuclear genes. A wide assortment of transgenes has been successfully expressed in the Chlamydomonas nuclear genome, including transformation markers, fluorescent proteins, reporter genes, epitope tagged proteins, and even therapeutic proteins. Optimized expression constructs and strains help transgene expression. Emerging technologies such as the CRISPR/Cas9 system, high-throughput mutant identification, and a whole-genome knockout library are being developed for this organism. We discuss how these advances will propel future investigations. Significance Statement Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is the premier model green alga due in part to the many molecular tools developed to interrogate, alter, and edit its nuclear genome. This review covers these major tools and technologies that are available for Chlamydomonas research, gives their historical context, and explores emerging molecular techniques currently being developed for this organism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)393-412
Number of pages20
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii
  • genetics
  • genome editing
  • markers
  • molecular tools
  • nuclear genome
  • reporters
  • transformation


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