Prospects in diatom research

TitleProspects in diatom research
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsLopez, PJ, Descles, J, Allen, AE, Bowler, C
JournalCurrent Opinion in Biotechnology

Diatoms are unicellular photosynthetic eukaryotes that play a major role in the global cycling of carbon and silicon. They are believed to have arisen from a secondary endosymbiotic event between two eukaryotes, a red alga and a flagellated heterotroph. Recent analysis of a diatom genome indeed reveals a 'mosaic' nature, with genes derived from plant, animal and bacterial lineages. Advances in molecular genomics are facilitating the use of diatom-specific genes or pathways for biotechnology. Another interest is in understanding the artistry of the amorphous silica shell and the underlying biomineralization process. Materials scientists and chemists are now exploiting diatoms to develop new biomimetic approaches and to create silicon-based microdevices with specific features.