Dr Saul Purton


Personal Profile

Name: Saul Purton Email: s.purton@ucl.ac.uk
Title: Dr Tel: 0207 679 2675
Department: Structural & Molecular Biology Fax:
Position: Reader in Molecular Phycology Address: Darwin Building, Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology, UCL, London, WC1E 6BT
Research Domain: Basic Life Sciences Web Page: Personal Web Page


Research Description

My research encompasses five major themes:

1. The nuclear control of gene expression in the chloroplast and mitochondrial organelles.

2. The evolution and metabolism of the algal chloroplast.

3. The production of high value recombinant products through genetic engineering of algal chloroplast and cyanobacteria.

4. The exploitation of algae for biofuel production.

5. The development of new synthetic biology tools and methodology for genetic engineering of algae.

Research Activities

The biology and biotechnology of algae

Education Description

I am course organiser for the 1st year undergraduate course BIOC1010: Introduction to Microbiology, and teach the majority of this course. 

I also teach on the following courses:

            BIOC2001: Molecular Biology
            BIOC3018: Cellular Regulation in Biotechnology, Health & Disease
            BIOL2004: Fundamentals of Molecular Biology
            BIOL2005: Genetic Systems
            BIOL2016: Energy and Evolution
            BIOSG006: MRes in Synthetic Biology

I supervise research and literature projects for final year BSc and MSci students in Biosciences, and also supervise a number of PhD students.

UCL Collaborators

External Collaborators



    • Gangl D, Zedler JA, Włodarczyk A, Jensen PE, Purton S, Robinson C (2015). Expression and membrane-targeting of an active plant cytochrome P450 in the chloroplast of the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.. Phytochemistry, 110, 22 - 28. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2014.12.006
    • Helliwell KE, Collins S, Kazamia E, Purton S, Wheeler GL, Smith AG (2015). Fundamental shift in vitamin B12 eco-physiology of a model alga demonstrated by experimental evolution.. ISME J, 9(6), 1446 - 1455. doi:10.1038/ismej.2014.230
    • Hellier P, Purton S, Ladommatos N (2015). Molecular structure of photosynthetic microbial biofuels for improved engine combustion and emissions characteristics.. Frontiers in bioengineering and biotechnology, 3, 49 - . doi:10.3389/fbioe.2015.00049


    • Baganz F, Xu Y, Hellier P, Ladommatos N, Purton S (2014). Exploring the potential of microalgae for bioenergy production. doi:10.1016/j.nbt.2014.05.1670
    • Galleani SB, Baganz F, Purton S (2014). Recombinant protein expression in the chloroplast of the green microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii: A case study using a novel green fluorescent protein as a reporter. NEW BIOTECHNOLOGY, 31, S56 - S56. doi:10.1016/j.nbt.2014.05.1741
    • Stoffels L, Charalambous B, Purton S (2014). Synthesis of antibacterial bacteriophage proteins in microalgae. NEW BIOTECHNOLOGY, 31, S59 - S59. doi:10.1016/j.nbt.2014.05.1747
    • Lizzul AM, Hellier P, Purton S, Baganz F, Ladommatos N, Campos L (2014). Combined remediation and lipid production using Chlorella sorokiniana grown on wastewater and exhaust gases.. Bioresour Technol, 151, 12 - 18. doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2013.10.040
    • Economou C, Wannathong T, Szaub J, Purton S (2014). A simple, low-cost method for chloroplast transformation of the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.. Methods Mol Biol, 1132, 401 - 411. doi:10.1007/978-1-62703-995-6_27
    • Helliwell KE, Scaife MA, Sasso S, Araujo AP, Purton S, Smith AG (2014). Unraveling vitamin B12-responsive gene regulation in algae.. Plant Physiol, 165(1), 388 - 397. doi:10.1104/pp.113.234369
    • Young RE, Purton S (2014). Cytosine deaminase as a negative selectable marker for the microalgal chloroplast: a strategy for the isolation of nuclear mutations that affect chloroplast gene expression.. Plant J, 80(5), 915 - 925. doi:10.1111/tpj.12675
    • Cazzaniga S, Dall'Osto L, Szaub J, Scibilia L, Ballottari M, Purton S, Bassi R (2014). Domestication of the green alga Chlorella sorokiniana: reduction of antenna size improves light-use efficiency in a photobioreactor.. Biotechnol Biofuels, 7(1), 157 - . doi:10.1186/s13068-014-0157-z
    • Tourasse NJ, Barbi T, Waterhouse JC, Shtaida N, Leu S, Boussiba S, Purton S, Vallon O (2014). The complete sequence of the chloroplast genome of the green microalga Lobosphaera (Parietochloris) incisa.. Mitochondrial DNA, , 1 - 3. doi:10.3109/19401736.2014.982562


    • Hellier P, Al-Haj L, Talibi M, Purton S, Ladommatos N (2013). Combustion and emissions characterization of terpenes with a view to their biological production in cyanobacteria. Fuel, 111, 670 - 688. doi:10.1016/j.fuel.2013.04.042
    • Santabarbara S, Casazza AP, Ali K, Economou CK, Wannathong T, Zito F, Redding KE, Rappaport F, Purton S (2013). The requirement for carotenoids in the assembly and function of the photosynthetic complexes in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.. Plant Physiol, 161(1), 535 - 546. doi:10.1104/pp.112.205260
    • Xu Y, Purton S, Baganz F (2013). Chitosan flocculation to aid the harvesting of the microalga Chlorella sorokiniana.. Bioresour Technol, 129, 296 - 301. doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2012.11.068
    • Dyo YM, Vonlanthen SE, Purton S, Zayadan BK (2013). Evaluating new isolates of microalgae from Kazakhstan for biodiesel production. Russian Journal of Plant Physiology, 60(4), 549 - 554. doi:10.1134/S1021443713040031
    • Purton S, Szaub JB, Wannathong T, Young R, Economou CK (2013). Genetic engineering of algal chloroplasts: Progress and prospects. Russian Journal of Plant Physiology, 60(4), 491 - 499. doi:10.1134/S1021443713040146


    • Santabarbara S, Kuprov I, Poluektov O, Casal A, Russell CA, Purton S, Evans MC (2010). Directionality of electron-transfer reactions in photosystem I of prokaryotes: universality of the bidirectional electron-transfer model.. J Phys Chem B, 114(46), 15158 - 15171. doi:10.1021/jp1044018


    • Castleman VH, Romio L, Chodhari R, Hirst RA, de Castro SC, Parker KA, Ybot-Gonzalez P, Emes RD, Wilson SW, Wallis C, Johnson CA, Herrera RJ, Rutman A, Dixon M, Shoemark A, Bush A, Hogg C, Gardiner RM, Reish O, Greene ND, O 'Callaghan C, Purton S, Chung EM, Mitchison HM (2009). Mutations in Radial Spoke Head Protein Genes RSPH9 and RSPH4A Cause Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia with Central-Microtubular-Pair Abnormalities.. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 84(2), 197 - 209. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2009.01.011


    • Loiselay C, Gumpel NJ, Girard-Bascou J, Watson AT, Purton S, Wollman F-A, Choquet Y (2008). Molecular identification and function of cis- and trans-acting determinants for petA transcript stability in Chlamydomonas chloroplasts.. Molecular and Cellular Biology, 28(17), 5529 - 5542.


    • Howe C, Barbrook A, Nisbet E, Purton S (2007). The chloroplast genome - terminal decline or faded grandeur?. PHOTOSYNTH RES, 91(2-3), 270 - 270.
    • Purton S (2007). Tools and techniques for chloroplast transformation of Chlamydomonas.. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 616, 34 - 45.
    • Bishop CL, Ulas S, Baena-Gonzalez E, Aro E-M, Purton S, Nugent JHA, Mäenpää P (2007). The PsbZ subunit of Photosystem II in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 modulates electron flow through the photosynthetic electron transfer chain.. Photosynthesis Research, 93(1-3), 139 - 147.
    • Howe CJ, Purton S (2007). The little genome of apicomplexan plastids: its raison d’etre and a possible explanation for the ‘delayed death’ phenomenon.. Protist, 158(2), 121 - 133.
    • Merchant SS, Prochnik SE, Vallon O, Harris EH, Karpowicz SJ, Witman GB, Terry A, Salamov A, Fritz-Laylin LK, Maréchal-Drouard L, Marshall WF, Qu LH, Nelson DR, Sanderfoot AA, Spalding MH, Kapitonov VV, Ren Q, Ferris P, Lindquist E, Shapiro H, Lucas SM, Grimwood J, Schmutz J, Cardol P, Cerutti H, Chanfreau G, Chen CL, Cognat V, Croft MT, Dent R, Dutcher S, Fernández E, Fukuzawa H, González-Ballester D, González-Halphen D, Hallmann A, Hanikenne M, Hippler M, Inwood W, Jabbari K, Kalanon M, Kuras R, Lefebvre PA, Lemaire SD, Lobanov AV, Lohr M, Manuell A, Meier I, Mets L, Mittag M, Mittelmeier T, Moroney JV, Moseley J, Napoli C, Nedelcu AM, Niyogi K, Novoselov SV, Paulsen IT, Pazour G, Purton S, Ral JP, Riaño-Pachón DM, Riekhof W, Rymarquis L, Schroda M, Stern D, Umen J, Willows R, Wilson N, Zimmer SL, Allmer J, Balk J, Bisova K, Chen CJ, Elias M, Gendler K, Hauser C, Lamb MR, Ledford H, Long JC, Minagawa J, Page MD, Pan J, Pootakham W, Roje S, Rose A, Stahlberg E, Terauchi AM, Yang P, Ball S, Bowler C, Dieckmann CL, Gladyshev VN, Green P, Jorgensen R, Mayfield S, Mueller-Roeber B, Rajamani S, Sayre RT, Brokstein P, Dubchak I, Goodstein D, Hornick L, Huang YW, Jhaveri J, Luo Y, Martínez D, Ngau WC, Otillar B, Poliakov A, Porter A, Szajkowski L, Werner G, Zhou K, Grigoriev IV, Rokhsar DS, Grossman AR (2007). The Chlamydomonas genome reveals the evolution of key animal and plant functions.. Science, 318, 245 - 250.
    • Cullen M, Ray N, Husain S, Nugent J N, J P, S (2007). A highly active histidine-tagged Chlamydomonas reinhardtii Photosystem II preparation for structural and biophysical analysis.. Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences, 6(11), 1177 - 183.
    • Santabarbara S, Bombelli P, Purton S, Russell C, Casazza A, Evans M, Heathcote P (2007). The physiological relevance of electron transfer involving redox-active centres bound to the PsaA and PsaB subunits of Photosystem I.. PHOTOSYNTH RES, 91(2-3), 155 - 156.


    • Ral J-P, Colleoni C, Wattebled F, Dauvillée D, Nempont C, Deschamps P, Li Z, Morell MK, Chibbar R, Purton S, d Hulst C, Ball SG (2006). Circadian clock regulation of starch metabolism establishes GBSSI as a major contributor to amylopectin synthesis in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.. Plant Physiology, 142(1), 305 - 317.
    • Ali K, Santabarbara S, Heathcote P, Evans MCW, Purton S (2006). Bidirectional electron transfer in photosystem I: replacement of the symmetry-breaking tryptophan close to the PsaB-bound phylloquinone (A1B) with a glycine residue alters the redox properties of A1B and blocks forward electron transfer at cryogenic tempe. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Bioenergetics, 1757(12), 1623 - 1633. doi:10.1016/j.bbabio.2006.07.006
    • Schlarb-Ridley BG, Nimmo RH, Purton S, Howe CJ, Bendall DS (2006). Cytochrome c6A is a funnel for thiol oxidation in the thylakoid lumen.. Federation of European Biochemical Societies Letters, 580(9), 2166 - 2169.
    • Howe CJ, Schlarb-Ridley BG, Wastl J, Purton S, Bendall DS (2006). The novel cytochrome c6 of chloroplasts: a case of evolutionary bricolage?. Journal of Experimental Botany, 57(1), 13 - 22.
    • Barbrook A, Howe CJ, Purton S (2006). Why are plastid genomes retained in non-photosynthetic eukaryotes?. Trends in Plant Science, 11, 101 - 108.


    • Walker TL, Collet C, Purton S (2005). Algal transgenics in the genomic era. Journal of Phycology, 41, 1077 - 1093.
    • Santabarbara S, Kuprov I, Fairclough WV, Purton S, Hore PJ, Heathcote P, Evans MCW (2005). Bidirectional electron transfer in photosystem I: determination of two distances between P700+ and A1- in spin-correlated radical pairs. Biochemistry, 44, 2119 - 2128. doi:10.1021/bi048445d
    • Walker TL, Purton S, Becker DK, Collet C (2005). Microalgae as bioreactors. Plant Cell Reports, 24, 629 - 641.


    • Wastl J, Purton S, Bendall DS, Howe CJ (2004). Two forms of cytochrome c6 in a single eukaryote. Trends in Plant Science, 9, 474 - 476.
    • Carter M, Smith AC, Kobayashi H, Purton S, Herrin DL (2004). Structure, circadian regulation and bioinformatic analysis of the unique sigma factor gene of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Photosynthesis Research, 82, 339 - 349.
    • Purton S (2004). Plastid theft by dinoflagellate pirates. Protist, 155, 266 - 266.


    • Bishop CL, Purton S, Nugent JHA (2003). Molecular analysis of the Chlamydomonas nuclear gene encoding PSII-W and demonstration that PSII-W is a subunit of photosystem II, but not photosystem I. Plant Molecular Biology, 52, 285 - 289.
    • Lister DL, Bateman JM, Purton S, Howe CJ (2003). DNA transfer from chloroplast to nucleus is much rarer in Chlamydomonas than in tobacco. Gene, 316, 33 - 38.
    • Fairclough WV, Forsyth A, Evans MCW, Rigby SEJ, Purton S, Heathcote P (2003). Bidirectional electron transfer in photosystem I: electron transfer on the PsaA side is not essential for phototrophic growth in Chlamydomonas. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Bioenergetics, 1606, 43 - 55. doi:10.1016/S0005-2728(03)00083-5
    • Nugent JHA, Purton S, Evans MCW (2003). Oxygenic photosynthesis in algae and cyanobacteria: electron transfer in photosystems I and II. In Larkum AW, Douglas S, Raven JA (Ed.), Photosynthesis in Algae: Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration (pp. 133 - 156). : Kluwer Academic Publishers.


    • Rigby SEJ, Muhiuddin IP, Evans MCW, Purton S, Heathcote P (2002). Photoaccumulation of the PsaB phyllosemiquinone in photosystem 1 of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Bioenergetics, 1556(1), 13 - 20. doi:10.1016/S0005-2728(02)00281-5
    • Purton S (2002). Going green: The evolution of photosynthetic eukaryotes. Microbiology Today, 29, 126 - 128.
    • Purton S, Pazour GJ (2002). Meeting report: Tenth International Conference on the Cell and Molecular Biology of Chlamydomonas. Protist, 153, 325 - 336.
    • Smith AC, Purton S (2002). The transcriptional apparatus of algal plastids. European Journal of Phycology, 37, 301 - 311.


    • Stevens DR, Atteia A, Franzen LG, Purton S (2001). Cycloheximide resistance conferred by novel mutations in ribosomal protein L41 of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Molecular Genetics and Genomics, 264(6), 790 - 795.
    • Lown FJ, Watson AT, Purton S (2001). Chlamydomonas nuclear mutants that fail to assemble respiratory or photosynthetic electron transfer complexes. Biochemical Society Transactions, 29(4), 452 - 455.
    • Purton S, Stevens DR, Muhiuddin IP, Evans MCW, Carter S, Rigby SEJ, Heathcote P (2001). Site-directed mutagenesis of PsaA residue W693 affects phylloquinone binding and function in the photosystem I reaction center of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Biochemistry, 40(7), 2167 - 2175. doi:10.1021/bi0019489
    • Rich PR, Mischis LA, Purton S, Wiskich JT (2001). The sites of interaction of triphenyltetrazolium chloride with mitochondrial respiratory chains.. FEMS Microbiol Lett, 202(2), 181 - 187.
    • Muhiuddin IP, Heathcote P, Carter S, Purton S, Rigby SEJ, Evans MCW (2001). Evidence from time resolved studies of the P700o+/A1o- radical pair for photosynthetic electron transfer on both the PsaA and PsaB branches of the Photosystem I reaction center. Federation of European Biochemical Societies Letters, 503(1), 56 - 60.
    • Rich PR, Mischis LM, Purton S, Wiskich JT (2001). The sites of interaction of TTC with mitochondrial respiratory chains. FEMS Microbiology Letters, 202(2), 181 - 187.


    • Stevens DR, Atteia A, Franzen LG, Purton S (2000). Cycloheximide resistance conferred by novel mutations in ribosomal protein L41 of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
    • Bateman JM, Purton S (2000). Tools for chloroplast transformation in Chlamydomonas: expression vectors and a new dominant selectable marker. Molecular and General Genetics, 263, 404 - 410.
    • Ermilova EV, Zalutskaya ZM, Gromov BV, H der DP, Purton S (2000). Isolation and characterization of chemotactic mutants of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii obtained by insertional mutagenesis. Protist, 151, 127 - 137.


    • Evans MCW, Purton S, Patel V, Wright D, Heathcote P, Rigby SEJ (1999). Modification of electron transfer from the quinone electron carrier, A1, of photosystem I in a site directed mutant of the D576L within the Fe-Sx binding site of PsaA and in second site suppressors of the mutation in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Photosynthesis Research, 61, 33 - 42.
    • Bishop CL, Cain AJ, Purton S, Nugent JHA (1999). Molecular cloning and sequence analysis of the Chlamydomonas reinhardtii nuclear gene encoding the photosystem II subunit PsbW (Accession No. AF170026) (PGR99-141). Plant Physiology, 121, 311 - 311.


    • Lumbreras V, Purton S (1998). Recent advances in Chlamydomonas transgenics. Protist, 149, 23 - 27.
    • Lumbreras V, Stevens DR, Purton S (1998). Efficient foreign gene expression in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii mediated by an endogenous intron. Plant Journal, 14, 441 - 448.
    • O'Connor HE, Ruffle SV, Cain AJ, Deak Z, Vass I, Nugent JHA, Purton S (1998). The 9 kDa phosphoprotein of photosystem II. Generation and characterisation of Chlamydomonas mutants lacking PSII-H and a site-directed mutant lacking the phosphorylation site. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Bioenergetics, 1364, 63 - 72.


    • Stevens DR, Purton S (1997). Genetic engineering of eukaryotic algae: progress and prospects. J PHYCOL, 33, 713 - 722.
    • Bateman J, Purton S (1997). Foreign gene expression in the chloroplast of Chlamydomonas.. Phycologia, 36(4), 6 - 6.
    • Lumbreras V, Stevens D, Purton S (1997). Factors inflluencing trans-gene expression in Chlamydomonas.. Phycologia, 36(4), 67 - 67.
    • Gumpel N, Lumbreras V, Turner M, Watson A, Purton S (1997). Transformation tagging in Chlamydomonas. PHYCOLOGIA, 36(4), 37 - 38.
    • Gumpel N, Lumbreras V, Turner M, Watson A, Purton S (1997). Transformation tagging in Chlamydomonas.. Phycologia, 36(4), 37 - 38.


    • Turner M, Gumpel N, Ralley L, Lumbreras V, Purton S (1996). Biogenesis of the electron-transfer complexes in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.. Biochem Soc Trans, 24(3), 733 - 738.
    • Stevens DR, Rochaix JD, Purton S (1996). The bacterial phleomycin resistance gene ble as a dominant selectable marker in Chlamydomonas.. Mol Gen Genet, 251(1), 23 - 30.


    • Patel V, Wright DW, Hallahan BJ, Purton S, Evans MCW (1995). A molecular analysis of Photosystem 1 mutants of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
    • Cheater AJ, OConnor HE, Ruffle SV, Nugent JHA, Purton S (1995). Elimination of PSII-H phosphorylation in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii does not affect PSII assembly or function.
    • GirardBascou J, Choquet Y, Gumpel N, Culler D, Purton S, Merchant S, Laquerriere F, Wollman FA (1995). Nuclear control of the expression of the chloroplast pet genes in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
    • Turner M, Gumpel N, Ralley L, GirardBascou J, Wollman FA, Purton S (1995). Nuclear genes required for the biogenesis of the cytochrome b(6)f complex in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii..
    • Hallahan BJ, Purton S, Ivison A, Wright D, Evans MCW (1995). Analysis of the proposed Fe-S-X binding region of Photosystem 1 by site directed mutation of PsaA in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. PHOTOSYNTH RES, 46(1-2), 257 - 264.
    • Gumpel NJ, Ralley L, Girard-Bascou J, Wollman FA, Nugent JH, Purton S (1995). Nuclear mutants of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii defective in the biogenesis of the cytochrome b6f complex.. Plant Mol Biol, 29(5), 921 - 932.
    • Ruffle SV, OConnor H, Cheater AJ, Purton S, Nugent JHA (1995). The construction and analysis of a disruption mutant of psbH in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii..


    • Gumpel NJ, Rochaix JD, Purton S (1994). Studies on homologous recombination in the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.. Curr Genet, 26(5-6), 438 - 442.
    • Gumpel NJ, Purton S (1994). Playing tag with Chlamydomonas.. Trends Cell Biol, 4(8), 299 - 301.
    • Purton S, Rochaix JD (1994). Complementation of a Chlamydomonas reinhardtii mutant using a genomic cosmid library.. Plant Mol Biol, 24(3), 533 - 537.




    • Debuchy R, Purton S, Rochaix JD (1989). The argininosuccinate lyase gene of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii: an important tool for nuclear transformation and for correlating the genetic and molecular maps of the ARG7 locus.. EMBO J, 8(10), 2803 - 2809.
    • Purton S, Gray JC (1989). The plastid rpoA gene encoding a protein homologous to the bacterial RNA polymerase alpha subunit is expressed in pea chloroplasts.. Mol Gen Genet, 217(1), 77 - 84.


    • Purton S, Gray JC (1987). Nucleotide sequence of the gene for ribosomal protein L36 in pea chloroplast DNA.. Nucleic Acids Res, 15(21), 9080 - .
    • Purton S, Gray JC (1987). Nucleotide sequence of the gene for ribosomal protein S11 in pea chloroplast DNA.. Nucleic Acids Res, 15(4), 1873 - .