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Phytoplankton Dicrateria rotunda synthesizes hydrocarbons equivalent to petroleum
TOYOHASHI UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY (TUT)
We discovered that Dicrateria rotunda (D. rotunda), a species of Haptophyte, can synthesize hydrocarbons
equivalent to petroleum (saturated hydrocarbons with a carbon number ranging from 10 to 38). No organism
capable of petroleum production has been previously reported.
All of the eleven Dicrateria strains examined in this study, including ARC1 obtained during a science cruise in
the Arctic Ocean, were found to be capable of synthesizing a series of saturated hydrocarbons. This has
indicated that this capability of synthesis is common to the entire Dicrateria genus.
The saturated hydrocarbon content of the D. rotunda ARC1 increased under dark and nitrogen-deficient
conditions. Understanding the physiological function and synthesis pathways of these saturated hydrocarbons
may contribute to the development of biofuels in the future.
Director-General Naomi Harada and colleagues from the Research Institute for Global Change at the Japan Agency
for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, in collaboration with Assistant Professor Yuu Hirose from Toyohashi
University of Technology and Specially Appointed Professor Kazuyoshi Murata from the National Institute for
Physiological Sciences, discovered that the phytoplankton Dicrateria rotunda (D. rotunda) can synthesize a series of
saturated hydrocarbons with a carbon number ranging from 10 to 38 .
A phytoplankton community was collected from seawater of the Chukchi Sea during a science cruise of the research
vessel “Mirai” in the Arctic Ocean in 2013, from which we isolated and cultured the Arctic strain of D. rotunda, ARC1.
ARC1 contained a series of saturated hydrocarbons with a carbon number ranging from 10 to 38, which are
categorized as petrol (carbon number 10 to 15), diesel oils (carbon number 16 to 20), and fuel oils (carbon number
21 or higher) . Moreover, we examined ten additional strains of Dicrateria stored in culture collections, all of which
were found to be similarly capable of hydrocarbon synthesis, indicating that this was common to the
entire Dicrateria genus. This study is the first to report on an organism with the capability to synthesize hydrocarbons
equivalent to petroleum.
The capability of the ARC1 strain to synthesize saturated hydrocarbons was shown to increase depending on the
environmental conditions , and the findings of this study are expected to contribute to the development of biofuels in