Novel Polysaccharide Production Through Seaweed Genetic and Cell Culture Technology

Lead Pi: Donald Cheney · 8/1996 - 7/1998

Project Personnel:

Project number: 1996-RB-42

Objectives:The ultimate objective of this investigation is to develop the new strains necessary for establishing a commercially viable Chondrus crispus (of ‘Irish Moss’) mariculture industry in the U.S. We will focus on producing new strains of Chondrus crispus which will produce novel new carrageenans with altered sulfate levels and different functional properties than now exists in wild plants and which can be cultured year round in warm water culture facilities. In addition, a second method of production unusual carrageenans from Chondrus will be investigated utilizing the plant’s ability to produce fast growing tissue cultures which can be grown and modified in a bioreacter cell culture systems. Methodology:This project will use protoplast fusion-somatic hybridization and mutagenesis techniques to produce new straings of Chrondrus which will be screened for desirable carrageenan traits (such as higher and lower contents of iota carrageenan and higher yield) and the ability to grow in warm water culture conditions. Presumed hybrid and mutant plants will intially be cultured in the laboratory and then subsequently cultured for a period of 3-5 months in small culture tanks at the University of Miami’s Experimental Hatchery facilities in Miami, Florida, where growth rates will be determined and samples taken for carrageenan yield and quality analyses. In addition, tissue cultures will be developed from Chondrus protoplasts which can be grown in a cell culture bioreactor system. Rationale:A commerically viable cultivation system for Chondrus would benefit the largely U.S. owned carrageenan industry and reduce U.S. imports of raw material for carrageenan. New Chondrus varities produced in this study with altered carrageenan chemistry would not only provide possible new uses in the food infustry but could also find a use in the biotechnological industry or in biomedical research. Recently it has been reported that highly sulfated carrageenans from certain seaweeds can inhibit the growth of HIV-1 and 2 type viruses (WItvrouw, et al. 1994). The present study will also demonstrate the potential for producing unique carrageenans in a seaweed cell culture bioreactor system. In addition to providing a new approach to studying carrageenans biosynthesis, such technology could be used to produce small quantities of high value but rare carrageenans. Finally, the biotechnology and cultivation methods developed in this investigation could help stimulate the seaweed mariculture industry in the U>S., and if successful, provide the first practical oppotunity of such in Massachusetts and southern New England.