Manipulation of the microalgal chloroplast by genetic engineering for biotechnological utilization as a green biofactory

  • Yong Min Kwon
  • Kyung Woo Kim
  • Tae-Young Choi
  • Sun Young Kim
  • Jaoon Young Hwan KimEmail author


The chloroplast is an essential organelle in microalgae for conducting photosynthesis, thus enabling the photoautotrophic growth of microalgae. In addition to photosynthesis, the chloroplast is capable of various biochemical processes for the synthesis of proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and terpenoids. Due to these attractive characteristics, there has been increasing interest in the biotechnological utilization of microalgal chloroplast as a sustainable alternative to the conventional production platforms used in industrial biotechnology. Since the first demonstration of microalgal chloroplast transformation, significant development has occurred over recent decades in the manipulation of microalgal chloroplasts through genetic engineering. In the present review, we describe the advantages of the microalgal chloroplast as a production platform for various bioproducts, including recombinant proteins and high-value metabolites, features of chloroplast genetic systems, and the development of transformation methods, which represent important factors for gene expression in the chloroplast. Furthermore, we address the expression of various recombinant proteins in the microalgal chloroplast through genetic engineering, including reporters, biopharmaceutical proteins, and industrial enzymes. Finally, we present many efforts and achievements in the production of high-value metabolites in the microalgal chloroplast through metabolic engineering. Based on these efforts and advances, the microalgal chloroplast represents an economically viable and sustainable platform for biotechnological applications in the near future.


Microalgae Chloroplast Transgene expression Genetic engineering Biotechnological production platform Sustainability 



This work was supported by the Institutional Project (2018M00600) from the National Marine Biodiversity Institute of Korea.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Applied ResearchNational Marine Biodiversity Institute of KoreaSeocheonRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Department of Genetic Resources ResearchNational Marine Biodiversity Institute of KoreaSeocheonRepublic of Korea

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