ERC Consolidator Grant

Deciphering the bioenergetic processes of microalgae


The Laboratory of Microalgae Genetics and Physiology (InBios Research Unit), in the Faculty of Sciences, is preparing to carry out extensive work on a microscopic scale: deciphering the bioenergetic processes in place in microalgae. Pierre Cardol - a FNRS Research Associate at the University of Liège - has just been awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant of €1,844,000 (spread over a period of 5 years) to try to better understand the photosynthetic mechanisms of these micro-organisms that play an important role in the production of oxygen on our planet.


he photosynthesis on a terrestrial scale is carried out half on the continents and half in the oceans. What is very well known about energy processes in photosynthetic organisms living on continents - how they regulate the mechanisms for converting light energy into chemical energy - is still largely unknown in photosynthetic organisms living in the oceans.

"The diversity of these organisms is much greater than the diversity of organisms found on the continents. The organisms present in the oceans have in common with those living on the continents a crucial function which is photosynthesis but for the rest, everything else happens differently. They carry out photosynthesis with a genetic heritage that is completely different from the genetic heritage of flowering plants," explains Pierre Cardol.

The question that arises today - from an evolutionary point of view, and therefore necessarily an ecological one - is precisely, within the energy process of photosynthesis, to know if the regulatory mechanisms and interactions between the different components of cellular energy are the same in these organisms living in the oceans as those evolving at the land level or, on the contrary, if these mechanisms are completely different. These organisms could be very interesting if they were to be exploited from a biotechnological point of view (biofuel production, in particular). It is therefore crucial to understand their photosynthetic process that allows them to grow and develop. It is this vast task that Pierre Cardol and the entire team of the Laboratory of Genetics and Physiology of Microalgae will be working on.

Pierre Cardol's project selected for an ERC Consolidator Grant is entitled: Bioenergetics in microalgae: regulation and interaction of mitochondrial respiration, photosynthesis, and fermentative pathways.

More information on the lab's research: The Diatoms' promise : breathing to better fix CO2

ERC Consolidator Grants

ERC Grants are major instruments deployed by the European Research Council to fund research projects in Europe. The procedure, which is extremely selective, selects only the best researchers and very high-level research projects, combining boldness and competence to tackle new research avenues that, if successful, could substantially enrich knowledge.
There are 5 types of grants: Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants, Synergy Grants and Proof of Concept

ERC Consolidator grants are designed to help researchers who wish to establish their research team and continue to develop a career in Europe. The program supports newly created independent research teams that excel in a specific area.

Pierre Cardol

After a degree in Plant Biology (2000) and a DEA (Diploma of Advanced Studies) in Science at the University of Liège, Pierre Cardol completed a doctorate in Claire Remacle's Laboratory of Genetics and Physiology of Microalgae (2000-2004). He then obtained a mandate as a FNRS researcher (2005-2008). Attached to Fabrice Franck's laboratory of Photobiology and Plant Biochemistry, he continues his work on respiration and photosynthesis in microalgae as part of his post-doctoral work.

Thanks to collaborations he went to Mexico in 2006 to the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Pierre Cardol spent a research stay at the Department of Molecular Genetics. He then made another research stay (2006-2007) at the Institute of Physico-chemical Biology of the University of Paris VI where he worked in a reference laboratory on chloroplasts and photosynthesis. Since his return to Liege in 2008 as a qualified researcher of the F.R.S.-FNRS, Pierre Cardol has continued his work on the mechanisms that regulate respiration and photosynthesis in microalgae.

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