Unicellular marine algae have promise for providing sustainable and scalable biofuel feedstocks, although no single species has emerged as a preferred organism. Moreover, adequate molecular and genetic resources prerequisite for the rational engineering of marine algal feedstocks are lacking for most candidate species. Heterokonts of the genus Nannochloropsis naturally have high cellular oil content and are already in use for industrial production of high-value lipid products. First success in applying reverse genetics by targeted gene replacement makes Nannochloropsis oceanica an attractive model to investigate the cell and molecular biology and biochemistry of this fascinating organism group. Here we present the assembly of the 28.7 Mb genome of N. oceanica CCMP1779. RNA sequencing data from nitrogen-replete and nitrogen-depleted growth conditions support a total of 11,973 genes, of which in addition to automatic annotation some were manually inspected to predict the biochemical repertoire for this organism. Among others, more than 100 genes putatively related to lipid metabolism, 114 predicted transcription factors, and 109 transcriptional regulators were annotated. Comparison of the N. oceanica CCMP1779 gene repertoire with the recently published N. gaditana genome identified 2,649 genes likely specific to N. oceanica CCMP1779. Many of these N. oceanica–specific genes have putative orthologs in other species or are supported by transcriptional evidence. However, because similarity-based annotations are limited, functions of most of these species-specific genes remain unknown. Aside from the genome sequence and its analysis, protocols for the transformation of N. oceanica CCMP1779 are provided. The availability of genomic and transcriptomic data for Nannochloropsis oceanica CCMP1779, along with efficient transformation protocols, provides a blueprint for future detailed gene functional analysis and genetic engineering of Nannochloropsis species by a growing academic community focused on this genus.
Algae are a highly diverse group of organisms that have become the focus of renewed interest due to their potential for producing biofuel feedstocks, nutraceuticals, and biomaterials. Their high photosynthetic yields and ability to grow in areas unsuitable for agriculture provide a potential sustainable alternative to using traditional agricultural crops for biofuels. Because none of the algae currently in use have a history of domestication, and bioengineering of algae is still in its infancy, there is a need to develop algal strains adapted to cultivation for industrial large-scale production of desired compounds. Model organisms ranging from mice to baker's yeast have been instrumental in providing insights into fundamental biological structures and functions. The algal field needs versatile models to develop a fundamental understanding of photosynthetic production of biomass and valuable compounds in unicellular, marine, oleaginous algal species. To contribute to the development of such an algal model system for basic discovery, we sequenced the genome and two sets of transcriptomes of N. oceanica CCMP1779, assembled the genomic sequence, identified putative genes, and began to interpret the function of selected genes. This species was chosen because it is readily transformable with foreign DNA and grows well in culture.