“In vitro” cultivation is useful in improving seed quality, which is a determining factor in the production of carrageenan and agar.
The cultivation of macroalga tissues and cells started to be developed in the 1980s so as to satisfy the heavy demand for these plants. The advances obtained with Chondrus crispus (Chen & Taylor, 1978) and Laminaria angustata (Saga et al. 1978) served as a stimulus to other phycologists to obtain and genetically improve new strains from species with economic possibilities. The techniques used to cultivate tissues are thus a powerful tool for the exploitation of macroalgae on a cellular level (Rorrer & Cheney, 2004, Batista, 2009).
Nearly forty years after the first attempts at in vitro cultivation, a number of applications have been defined that will enable the type of explant to be selected and defined, and for them to be cultivated in aseptic conditions using enriched media. The capacity for clonal propagation has been achieved and used in mariculture in Panama (Batista, 2009).
In line with the aims of the project, a plan has been established using molecular biology techniques to correctly determine the species cultivated in Panama. This has been carried out using molecular markers and then microsatellites given the phenotypic plasticity of these species, which makes it impossible to use morphological characters in the morphology. The techniques used include the following:
- Characterization of genotypes: Genetically characterizing the species of the Kappaphycus and Gracilaria genuses and other red algae of commercial interest, using molecular markers. Studying chloroplast genes, such as the spacers between the small and large subunits of the rubisco or the encoding area of the large rubisco rbcL and even the cytochrome oxidase (COX).
- Microsatellite: Establishing the genetic fingerprint or what would become the registered trademark. Microsatellites are used for intra-population genetic marking.
- Micropropagation of apparently (phenotypically) resistant thalli: Molecular characterization of the resistance to epiphytes by monitoring oxidase gene expression: development of probes for monitoring expression in real time PCR.
Source and reference: Research work in progress under Dr Gloria Batista de Vega at the Punta Galeta Marine Laboratory, Panama.