Plant and Algal Biotechnology 

A particular strength of staff in Botany and Plant Science is their expertise in Plant and Algal Biotechnology and Biochemistry. Specific areas of interest include algal biotechnology, molecular plant and fungal biotechnology, and plant and algal biochemistry .    

What is Plant and Algal Biotechnology?

Biotechnology is driven by the combined demands of providing sufficient resources, including food and medicines, for our planets ever-increasing population to live healthily and sustainably in the face of climate-change. This requires not only better understanding and optimising (through applying new growing methods, harvesting-techniques, and/or technologies) our current use of various plants, algae and fungi, but diversifying and seeking novel materials, medicines and foods and investigating how they may be sustainably exploited. 

Biotechnology seeks to understand and manipulate biological processes in plants, algae and fungi for the generation of useful products that may be used for a range of different purposes such as medicines, foods and food ingredients, nutraceuticals, textiles, and many others. It is underpinned by research that investigates the biochemistry, structural biology and (eco)physiology of these organisms, and the occurrence of biochemical compounds, such as lipids, pigments, proteins and polysaccharides, as well as the factors influencing their metabolism (synthesis and catabolism) in model- (examples at NUI Galway include Aspergillus, Rasamsonia and Trichoderma fungi, [ZAP4] Penium and C-fern) and relevant specific organisms (e.g. seaweeds native to Ireland and fungi isolated from Irish habitats). It also includes research focused on understanding key plant, algal, and fungal features that are involved in factor affecting crop yield (e.g. parasitic plants) and drought tolerance (e.g. stomata).

Some recent exciting developments based on harnessing plant and algal biotechnology range from developing sustainable ‘biorefineries’ that will produce renewable energy, high-value biochemicals and commodity products from the biological building blocks in non-food plants and everyday plant-derived wastes, to mining new anti-cancer and anti-microbial therapeutics from plants, algae and fungi. Understanding the true biodiversity of plants, fungi and algae in the natural world, which is a central theme in the current plant & algal biotechnology projects, will enhance future biotechnological outputs and innovation, and support sustainable use of these valuable resources[MT5] .

Current and recent research focuses on developments of plants and algae in several industrial sectors, such as food, agricultural and health sciences. 

BPS-pippets  BPS-ocean

Current and recent projects 

Algal/marine Biotechnology (PI: Dagmar Stengel)

NutraMara. Marine Functional Foods Research Initiative (Marine Institute/DAFM)

Marine Biotechnology ERA-Net NEPTUNA project: coordinated by Dagmar Stengel

Optimisation and standardisation of phlorotannin profiles of commercially valuable seaweeds with food applications (Teagasc Walsh Fellowship)

Profiling and Optimising chemical composition of red Sea Vegetables for enhanced bioactive yields (FIRM, DAFM)

SMART FOOD - Science Based ’Intelligent’/Functional and Medical Foods for Optimum Brain Health, Targeting Depression and Cognition (FIRM, DAFM)

 Annals of Botany Popper Phycology Stengel


Plant and Algal Biochemistry

(PI: Dr Popper)

Effects of extraction conditions on the yield and composition of polysaccharides from the seaweeds Ulva sp., Palmaria palmata, Fucus vesiculosus and Laminaria digitata (FIRM project/DAFM-funded). 

Stomatal cell wall composition

The effects of desiccation and age on the cell wall biochemistry of charophycean green algae

Infection processes used by the parasitic plant Cuscuta

Molecular tools for the identification and localization of algal cell wall components (SFI-funded)

Effect of mechanical stimulation on plant growth and cell wall morphology and composition (IRCSET-funded). 

c-fern  fucus  Penium

Molecular plant and fungal biotechnology projects

(PI: Maria Tuohy)

Dairy Processing Technology Centre (DPTC), an Enterprise Ireland supported Technology Centre: Pillar 5: ‘Valorisation Technologies’ to create value-added prebiotics, bioactives, food/feed ingredients and biochemicals  from dairy wastes)

EU FP7 INTERREG IVB NWE Programme (‘ReNEW’) - Intensification of resource recovery and reuse of organic wastes with novel (fungal) enzymatic technologies.

Technology Centre for Biorefining & Bioenergy (TCBB, an Enterprise Ireland supported Technology Centre): Enabling (fungal) enzyme technology forconversion of biomass and industry process wastes to biorefining and bioenergy feedstocks & Enzyme technology for grass & algae conversion to fermentable feedstocks for biorefining & bioenergy applications

Enterprise Ireland - ACE – Accelerating Catalyst for enhanced Enzyme Production by Fungal Cell factories

Department of Agriculture Food & the Marine Food Institute Research Measure (DAFM FIRM) Project - Pre-commercialisation Evaluation of Algal Derived Prebiotic Poly and Oligosaccharides using Phenotype Microarray Technology

DAFM FIRM project ‘BIA-SLAN’: Bioactive Ingredients from Algal Sources - novel Antimicrobial tools to limit Campylobacter infection of poultry

DAFM Network programme - Integrated Irish Phyto Food Network: Tracing phytochemical from farm to fork & DAFM FIRM project - Development of functional foods with waste/by-products of fruit, vegetable and fish processing

 Tuohy Books

 MS Books

Recent Plant/Algal/Fungal Biotechnology publications

 Robertson, R.C., Gracia, M.R., O'Grady, M.N., Guihéneuf, F., Stengel, D.B, Ross, R.P., Fitzgerald, G.F, Kerry, J.P., Stanton, C. (2016). An assessment of the techno-functional and sensory properties of yoghurt fortified with a lipid extract from the microalga Pavlova lutheri. Inn. Food Sci. Emerging Technol. doi:10.1016/j.ifset.2016.03.017

Schmid, M., Guiheneuf, F. and Stengel, D.B. (2016). Evaluation of food grade solvents for lipid extraction and impact of storage temperature on fatty acid composition of edible seaweeds Laminaria digitata (Phaeophyceae) and Palmaria palmata (Rhodophyta). Food Chem. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.03.123

Hafting JT, Craigie JS, Stengel DB, Loureiro RR Buschmann AH, Yarish C, Edwards MD, Critchley AT (2015). Prospects and challenges for industrial production of seaweed bioactives. J Phycol DOI: 10.1111/jpy.12326

Stengel DB, Connan S (2015) (Eds). Natural Products from Marine Algae. Methods in Molecular Biology Series. Springer.

Guiheneuf F, Schmid M, Stengel DB (2015) Lipids and Fatty Acids in Algae: Extraction, Fractionation into Lipid Classes, and Analysis by Gas Chromatography coupled with Flame Ionisation Detector (GC-FID). In: Natural Products from Marine Algae: Methods and Protocols. Eds: Stengel, D.B. and Connan, S., Springer Protocols, Humana Press.

Stengel DB, Connan S (2015) Marine algae a source of biomass for biotechnological applications. In: Natural Products from Marine Algae: Methods and Protocols. Eds: Stengel & Connan, Springer Protocols, Humana Press.

Robertson R, Guihéneuf F, Schmid M, Stengel DB, Fitzgerald G, Ross P, Stanton C (2013). Algae-Derived Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Implications for Human Health. In: Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Sources, Antioxidant Properties and Health Benefits. Nova Sciences, Publishers, Inc., Hauppauge, NY 11788, USA

Guihéneuf F, Stengel DB (2013). LC-PUFA enriched oil production by microalgae: lipid and triacylglycerols containing n-3 LC-PUFA accumulation are triggered by nitrogen-limitation and inorganic carbon availability in the marine microalga Pavlova lutheri. Mar Drugs 11, 4246-4266; doi:10.3390/md11114246

Raimundo RC, Pattathil S, Eberhard S, Hahn MG, Popper ZA. In Press.β-1,3-Glucans are components of brown seaweed (Phaeophyceae) cell walls.Protoplasma. doi: 1007/s00709-0161007-6

 Wiu X, Wolfe R, Welch LR, Domozych DS, Popper ZA, Showalter AM (2016)Bioinformatic identification and analysis of extensins in the plant kingdom. PloS one 11 (2), e0150177

Olsen S, Striberny B, Hollmann J, Schwacke R, Popper ZA, Krause K (2016)Getting ready for host invasion: elevated expression and action of xyloglucan endotransglucosylases/hydrolases in developing haustoria of the holoparasitic angiosperm Cuscuta. Journal of ExperimentalBotany67:695–708 doi: 10.1093/jxb/erv482  

 Raimundo SC, Avci U, Hopper C, Pattathil S, Hahn MG, Popper ZA (2016)Immunolocalization of cell wall carbohydrate epitopes in seaweeds: presence of land plant epitopes in Fucus vesiculosus L.(Phaeophyceae). Planta243: 337–354 doi. 10.1007/s00425-015-2412-3

Popper ZA, Ralet M-C, Domozych DS (2014)Plant and algal cell walls: diversity and functionality.

Preface for Special Issue on Plant Cell Walls. Annals of Botany 114: 1043–1048 doi:10.1093/aob/mcu214

Pielach A, Leroux O, Domozych DS, Knox JP, Popper ZA (2014)Arabinogalactan protein-rich cell walls, paramural deposits and ergastic globules define the hyaline bodies of Rhinanthoid

Orobanchaceae haustoria. Annals of Botany 114: 1359–1373 doi.10.1093/aob/mcu121

Eeckhout S, Leroux O, Willats WGT, Popper ZA, Viane RLL (2014)Comparative glycan profiling of Ceratopteris richardii ‘C-Fern’ gametophytes and sporophytes links cell-wall composition to functional specialization. Annals of Botany 114: 1295–1307 doi: 10.1093/aob/mcu039

Domozych DS, Sørensen I, Popper ZA, Ochs J, Andreas A, Fangel JU, Pielach A, Sacks C, Brechka H, Willats WGT, Rose JKC (2014)Pectin metabolism and assembly in the cell wall of the charophyte green alga Penium margaritaceum. Plant Physiol. 165: 105–118.doi:

Domozych DS, Sørensen I, Sacks C, Brechka H, Andreas A, Fangel JU, Rose JKC, Willats WGT,

Popper ZA (2014)Disruption of the microtubule network alters cellulose deposition and causes

major changes in pectin distribution in the cell wall of the green alga, Penium margaritaceum.

Journal of Experimental Botany 65: 465–479. doi:10.1093/jxb/ert390.

Leroux O, Eeckhout S, Viane RLL, Popper ZA (2013) Ceratopterisrichardii (C-Fern): a model for

investigating adaptive modification of vascular plant cell walls. Front. Plant Sci. 4: 367. doi.10.3389/fpls.2013.00367

Popper ZA ed. (2011). Plant Cell Wall: Methods and Protocols.  Methods in Molecular Biology Volume 715. Humana Press, New Jersey, USA. ISBN-10 1617790079/ ISBN-13 978-1617790072.

Cerrone F, Davis R, Kenny ST, Woods T, O’Donovan A, Gupta VK, Tuohy M, Babu RP, O’Kiely P, O’Connor K (2015) Use of a mannitol rich ensiled grass press juice (EGPJ) as a sole carbon source for polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) production through high cell density cultivation. Bioresource Technology 191, 45-52.

Davis R, Kataria R, Cerrone F, Woods T, Kenny S, O’Donovan A, Guzik M, Shaikh H, Duane G, Gupta VK, Tuohy MG, Padamatti RB, Casey E, O’Connor KE (2013) Conversion of grass biomass into fermentable sugars and its utilization for medium chain length polyhydroxyalkanoate (mcl-PHA) production by Pseudomonas strains. Bioresource Technology 150: 202-209

Ayyachamy M, Cliffe FE, Coyne JM, Collier J, Tuohy MG (2013) Lignin: untapped biopolymers in biomass conversion technologies. Biomass Conversion & Biorefinery 3:255-269 DOI 10.1007/s13399-013-0084-4

Rawson A, Brunton NP, Rai DK, McLoughlin P, Tiwari BK, Tuohy MG (2013) Stability of falcarinol type polyacetylenes during processing of Apiaceae vegetables. Trends Food Sci Technol. 30(2), 133-141.

Foley SA, Szegezdi E, Mulloy B, Samali A, Tuohy MG (2011) An Unfractionated Fucoidan from Ascophyllum nodosum: Extraction, Characterization, and Apoptotic effects in vitro. J. Nat. Prod. 74: 1851-1861.

Biotechnology of Bioactive Compounds: Sources and Applications (2015) Eds. VK Gupta, MG Tuohy, AODonovan, M Lohani, 1st Edn; Wiley Blackwell, ISBN: 978-1-118-73349-3 (Release date, April 2015).

Bioenergy Research: Advances and Applications (2014) Eds. VK Gupta, CP Kubicek, J Saddler, F Xu, MG Tuohy, 1st Edn; Elsevier, ISBN: 978-0-4445-9561-4

Biotechnology and Biology of Trichoderma (2014) Eds. V.K. Gupta, M. Schmoll, A. Herrera-Estrella, RS Upadhyay, I Druzhinina, MG Tuohy, 1st Edn; Elsevier, ISBN: 978-0-4445-9576-8

Applications of Microbial Engineering (2013) Eds. VK Gupta, M Schmoll, MA Mazutti, M Mäki, MG Tuohy, CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, Bacon Raton, FL, USA, ISBN: 978-1-4665-8577-5

Biofuel Technologies: Recent Developments (2013) Eds. VK Gupta, MG Tuohy, Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg. ISBN: 978-3-642-34518-0; DOI 10.1007/978-3-642-34519-7.

Laboratory Protocols in Fungal Biology: Current Methods in Fungal Biology Series. (2013) Eds. VK Gupta, MG Tuohy; Assoc. Eds. A. Manimaran, KM Turner and A O’Donovan, Springer Science + Business Media, LLC, NY, USA, ISBN: 978-1-4614-2355-3; DOI 10.1007/978-1-4614-2356-0