Current research in the Leblond laboratory focuses on two important aspects of algal lipid biochemistry:
Characterization of chloroplast glycolipids - Chlamydomonas reinhardtii has been a model photosynthetic organism for decades because it is easy to grow under a variety of conditions and is amenable to genetic analysis. This has led to the accumulation of a substantial amount of genomic, biochemical, and physiological data that allow an interdisciplinary, systems-level approach to elucidating the function of complex biological phenomena, such as oxygenic photosynthesis. Within the boundaries of temperature, irradiance, and macronutrient proportion/concentration, Dr. Leblond, in collaboration with Dr. Bruce Cahoon and Dr. T. J. Evens (USDA) are currently conducting experiments to quantify the influence of the above variables on: 1) the photoacclimatory status of C. reinhardtii; 2) the lipidome of C. reinhardtii, emphasizing thylakoid lipids; 3) expression of major photosynthesis and lipid biosynthesis genes under all of the conditions. They are developing an empirical model to explain the photosynthetic performance of C. reinhardtii using this work and methodology developed in several previous studies on the lipids of dinoflagellate and chlorarachniophyte algae (Gray, 2009; Leblond and Roche, 2009; Leblond and Lasiter, 2009).
Elucidation of steps in sterol biosynthesis - Ongoing research to elucidate specific biochemical steps involved in sterol biosynthesis in Karenia brevis, an environmentally important dinoflagellate that forms seasonal red tides in the Gulf of Mexico and that produces unusual biomarker sterols (Leblond, 2002). This eukaryotic microbe is not considered to be a model organism (such as the well-studied yeast and green algal genera Saccharomyces and Chlamydomonas, respectively), yet it greatly impacts human activity. Data from this project will further our understanding of a key biochemical process in this particular organism as well provide the basis for similar studies in other environmentally and economically important dinoflagellates.