Research • Educate • Connect
Towards a sustainable bioeconomy

Research • Educate • Connect
Towards a sustainable bioeconomy
SEED FUND 2.0 project HySyn

Fatty acid photodecarboxylases for hydrocarbon synthesis


Alkanes and alkenes are one of the most important classes of hydrocarbons for the production of next-generation drop-in biofuels and plastics. In 2017, a new class of alkane/alkene synthesizing photoenzymes was discovered in the algae Chlorella variabilis and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, which for catalysis rely on blue-light illumination (christened fatty acid photodecarboxylases; FAPs; Sorigué et al. 2017. Science. 357: 903-907). Despite their promise as efficient alkane/alkene-producing biocatalysts, important biotechnologically-relevant properties remain largely uncharacterized and their phylogenetic distribution, and hence the existence of alternative FAPs with potentially superior biotechnologically-relevant properties remain to be identified and explored. The HySyn SEED FUND project aimed at filling this gap. During the funding period, expression, purification and immobilization of one known FAP (C. variabilis CvFAP) and one novel FAP of Cocomyxa subellipsoidea (CsFAP) (WP1, Jaeger/Krauss) was optimized. The DNA sequence encoding the latter enzyme was identified by genome mining (WP2, Usadel). Phylogenetic studies revealed, apart from numerous microalgal FAPs, a wealth of related sequences (annotated as choline dehydrogenases) in microbes. In addition, biomass for DNA extraction was produced from two different microalgal strains: a Scenedesmus sp. and a Chlorella sp., which potentially could harbor superior FAP enzymes (WP3, Schurr/Klose). Unfortunately, it was not possible to hire suitable personnel for the genome sequencing (WP2, Usadel). Therefore, this project part could not be finished. Nevertheless, the results obtained during this Seed Fund project help to accelerate the discovery and characterization of novel FAPs and pave the way towards application of this important new enzyme family for sustainable hydrocarbon production. 

Photo: HHU Düsseldorf


SEED FUND 2.0 Coordinator

Dr. Ulrich Krauss
Molecular Biophotonics
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
phone: +49 2461 612939



Prof. Dr. Karl-Erich Jaeger, Dr. Ulrich Krauss, Molecular Enzyme Technology, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

Prof. Dr. Björn Usadel, Botany and Molecular Genetics , RWTH Aachen University

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schurr, Dr. Holger Klose, IBG-2, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH


Funding period

01.10.2018 - 31.12.2019



HySyn is part of the NRW-Strategieprojekt BioSC and thus funded by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia.