Project 1: Towards controlling chytrid pathogens in industrial cultures of Haematococcus sp

This project is based at A4F – Algae for Future –  in Lisbon, Portugal. A4F is a bio-engineering company which designs, builds, operates and transfers microalgae biomass industrial production plants worldwide. In order to maximize the performance of each process, A4F proposes an innovative approach through a gradual scale-up from laboratory innocula to the large-scale final plant development. A4F has over 20 years’ experience in microalgae production, as well as biomass and/or co-products sales. The company designs, project manages, implements, operates and transfers Industrial Microalgae Production Units from demonstration size to large-scale commercial units.

In laboratory culture, the chytrid Paraphysoderma sedebokerensis exhibits a complex life cycle alternating between amoebae, a devastating parasitic stage on Haematococcus, and drought-resistant cysts.

Noreen Hiegle has been appointed researcher for project 1 which is based at A4F and her research will investigate the interaction between a recently discovered chytrid pathogen and the high value micro-alga Haematococcus pluvialis (see image) in a holistic way. Noreen’s work aims to:

  1. complete the description of the pathogen’s life cycle and progression of events that lead to recognition and adhesion to its host, using a combination of laboratory-cultivation, microscopy, transcriptomics and metabolomics on the different life stages;
  2. identify the pathogen’s nutritional requirements throughout its development cycle via the integration of the metabolomics and transcriptomics data to reconstruct key metabolic pathways;
  3. screen Haematococcus cultures for genotypes of randomly-emerging clones resistant to infection and with high productivities; and
  4. test the phenotypical stability of resistant strains at pilot and industrial scales.

On the basis of her results, Noreen will aim to design diseases managements strategies applicable to an industrial environment.