Marine diatoms have potential as a biotechnological production platform, especially for lipid-derived products, including biofuels. Here we introduce some features of diatom metabolism, particularly with respect to photosynthesis, photorespiration and lipid synthesis and their differences relative to other photosynthetic eukaryotes. Since structural metabolic modelling of other photosynthetic organisms has been shown to be capable of representing their metabolic capabilities realistically, we briefly review the main approaches to this type of modelling. We then propose that genome-scale modelling of the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum, in response to varying light intensity, could uncover the novel aspects of the metabolic potential of this organism.

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