Algae are a very diverse group of photosynthetic organisms that range from microscopic size to giant kelp that may reach lengths of 20 m (66 ft). Some commercial biochemicals come from algal seaweeds, and algae supply oxygen and consume nutrients in some processes used for biological waste treatment.

Although their rapid growth rates relative to other green plants offer great potential for producing biomass for energy or a chemical feedstock, there is little industrial use of algae. One proposed process uses Dunaliella, a species that grows in high salinity and accumulates glycerol internally to counter the high external osmotic pressure. Outdoor ponds are most suitable for growing algae because vast surfaces and high illumination are needed.

Fungi As a group, fungi are characterized by simple vegetative bodies from which reproductive structures are elaborated. All fungal cells possess distinct nuclei and produce spores in specialized fruiting bodies at some stage in their life cycles. The fungi contain no chlorophyll and therefore require sources of complex organic molecules for growth: Many species grow on dead organic material; others live as parasites.

Yeasts are one kind of fungi. They are unicellular organisms surrounded by a cell wall and possessing a distinct nucleus. With very few exceptions, yeasts reproduce by a process known as budding, where a small new cell is pinched off the parent cell. Under certain conditions, an individual yeast cell may become a fruiting body, producing spores.

Isolated Plant and Animal Cells Biotechnology includes recovery of biochemicals from intact animals and plants, but the care and feeding of them is beyond the scope of this section. Processes with their isolated cells have much in common with processes based on microorganisms. The cells tend to be much more fragile than microbial cells, and allowable ranges of pH and temperature are quite narrow. These cells occur in aggregates and usually require enzymes to free them. There is a strong tendency for the cells to attach to something, and cell cultures often exploit attachment to surfaces.

Plant and animal cells have numerous chromosomes. Growth rates are relatively slow. A typical nutrient medium will contain a large number of vitamins and growth factors in addition to complex nitrogen sources, because other specialized cells in the original structures supply these needs. A plant or animal cell is not like a microbial cell in its ability to function independently.


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