Background: The goal of achieving cost-effective biofuels and bioproducts derived from algal biomass
will require improvements along the entire value chain, including identification of robust, highproductivity
strains and development of advanced genetic tools. Though there have been modest
advances in development of genetic systems for the model alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, progress
in development of algal genetic tools, especially as applied to non-model algae, has generally lagged
behind that of more commonly utilized laboratory and industrial microbes. This is in part due to the
complex organellar structure of algae, including robust cell walls and intricate compartmentalization
of target loci, as well as prevalent gene silencing mechanisms, which hinder facile utilization of
conventional genetic engineering tools and methodologies.
Conclusion: Recent progress in global tool development has opened the door for implementation of strain-engineering
strategies in industrially-relevant algal strains. These developments will facilitate the use of microalgae in a variety of
applications relating to biofuels and bioproducts. Here, we review recent advances in algal genetic tool development and
applications in eukaryotic microalgae.