Tomas Morosinotto




Algae metabolic engineering for the sustainable production of Bio-commodities

Global demand of biomass is continuously expanding and new sustainable technologies are needed to avoid overexploitation of natural resources, reduce environmental footprints and greenhouse-gas emissions. Algae represent a valuable alternative for the production of several bio-commodities  going from biofuels to feed, food and chemicals. Thanks to their efficiency in carbon dioxide (CO2) fixation, algae large scale cultivation can also contribute to the mitigation of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this potential algae large scale cultivation still present several limitations and only a few algae-based products are currently present on the market.

Research in the lab address these issues using genetic engineering to increase biomass yield of algae grown in photobioreactors, exploiting mathematical models to identify the modifications with the most positive impact.  Molecular bases of algae metabolic regulation are also investigated using multiple –omics approaches, providing seminal information to drive genetic engineering efforts.

The most promising strains generated are being tested in industrially relevant conditions to assess their potential.  

This work is supported by ERC starting Grant BioLEAP



Photosynthesis Adaptation Upon Land Colonization

Photosynthesis is a process of a key relevance for the biosphere, as photosynthetic organisms convert sunlight into chemical energy, generating molecular oxygen as a secondary product. Several studies on the structure and organization of photosystems and their subunits are now available but the comprehension of the regulation of photosynthesis following changing environmental conditions is still limited. Plants, in fact, are very often exposed to variable light intensities and evolved several regulatory mechanisms to modulate the energy transfer efficiency following the metabolic constraints, maximizing light harvesting when light is limiting and dissipating any energy in excess when light irradiation is too high. Otherwise, surpluses of absorbed energy would drive to the formation of harmful oxidative species, leading in the worst cases to cell death. The regulation of excitation energy transfer to the Photosystem reaction centres is thus a key process for photosynthetic organisms survival and productivity.

In this part of the research we use the moss Physcomitrella patens as a model organism to study regulation of photosynthesis. As a bryophyte, Physcomitrella patens diverged from seed plants early after land colonization and its genome carry the traces of the first plants adaptation to this new environment. The study of Physcomitrella patens can thus provide information on how photosynthetic eukaryotes adapted to terrestrial lifestyle conditions, which are particularly challenging for photosynthesis (i.e.: high illumination, low CO2 availability and fast O2 diffusion compared with the original water ecosystem), requiring the adaptation also of photoprotective regulatory mechanisms.

The work started focusing on the fastest photoprotection mechanism, called Non Photochemical Quenching (NPQ), which consists in the dissipation of excess excitation energy as heat. This mechanisms was studies by producing KO mutants and overexpressing plants exploiting the fact that Physcomitrella patens has the unique ability among plants to integrate efficiently DNA by homologous recombination. 


Recent main publications:

Gerotto C, Alboresi A, Meneghesso A, Jokel M, Suorsa M, Aro EM,  Morosinotto T*, Flavodiiron proteins act as safety valve for electrons in Physcomitrella patens. PNAS 2016  113(43):12322-12327

Alboresi A, Le Quiniou C, Yadav SKN, Scholz M, Meneghesso A, Gerotto C, Simionato D, Hippler M, Boekema EJ, Croce R and Morosinotto T*. Conservation of core complex subunits shaped structure and function of Photosystem I in the secondary endosymbiont alga Nannochloropsis gaditana. New Phytologist 2017 213(2):714-726.

Alboresi A, Perin G, Vitulo N, Diretto G, Block MA, Jouhet J, Meneghesso A, Valle G, Giuliano G, Maréchal E, Morosinotto T*. Light Remodels Lipid Biosynthesis in Nannochloropsis gaditana by Modulating Carbon Partitioning Between Organelles. Plant Physiol. 2016 171(4):2468-82

Perin G, Bellan A, Segalla A, Meneghesso A, Alboresi A and Morosinotto T* Generation of random mutants to improve light-use efficiency of Nannochloropsis gaditana cultures for biofuel production Biotec for Biofuels 2015 8:161

Gerotto C, Franchin C, Arrigoni G, Morosinotto T*. In vivo Identification of Photosystem II Light Harvesting Complexes Interacting with PSBS. Plant Physiol. 2015 168(4):1747-61




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Dipartimento di Biologia
Complesso Biologico "A. Vallisneri"- Piano IV Sud
Via Ugo Bassi 58 B
35121 Padova
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