Micro-algae have potential as sustainable sources of energy and products and alternative mode of agriculture. However, their mass cultivation is challenging due to low survival under harsh outdoor conditions and competition from other, undesired, species. Extremophilic micro-algae have a role to play by virtue of their ability to grow under acidic or alkaline pH, high temperature, light, CO2 level and metal concentration. In this review, we provide several examples of potential biotechnological applications of extremophilic micro-algae and the ranges of tolerated extremes. We also discuss the adaptive mechanisms of tolerance to these extremes. Analysis of phylogenetic relationship of the reported extremophiles suggests certain groups of the Kingdom Protista to be more tolerant to extremophilic conditions than other taxa. While extremophilic microalgae are beginning to be explored, much needs to be done in terms of the physiology, molecular biology, metabolic engineering and outdoor cultivation trials before their true potential is realized.
- Green algae