Biochemistry, Department of


Date of this Version



Rosenberg JN, Kobayashi N, Barnes A, Noel EA, Betenbaugh MJ, et al. (2014) Comparative Analyses of Three Chlorella Species in Response to Light and Sugar Reveal Distinctive Lipid Accumulation Patterns in the Microalga C. sorokiniana. PLoS ONE 9(4): e92460. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092460


Copyright 2014 Rosenberg et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


While photosynthetic microalgae, such as Chlorella, serve as feedstocks for nutritional oils and biofuels, heterotrophic cultivation can augment growth rates, support high cell densities, and increase triacylglycerol (TAG) lipid content. However, these species differ significantly in their photoautotrophic and heterotrophic characteristics. In this study, the phylogeny of thirty Chlorella strains was determined in order to inform bioprospecting efforts and detailed physiological assessment of three species. The growth kinetics and lipid biochemistry of C. protothecoides UTEX 411, C. vulgaris UTEX 265, and C. sorokiniana UTEX 1230 were quantified during photoautotrophy in Bold’s basal medium (BBM) and heterotrophy in BBM supplemented with glucose (10 g L-1). Heterotrophic growth rates of UTEX 411, 265, and 1230 were found to be 1.5-, 3.7-, and 5-fold higher than their respective autotrophic rates. With a rapid nine-hour heterotrophic doubling time, Chlorella sorokiniana UTEX 1230 maximally accumulated 39% total lipids by dry weight during heterotrophy compared to 18% autotrophically. Furthermore, the discrete fatty acid composition of each strain was examined in order to elucidate lipid accumulation patterns under the two trophic conditions. In both modes of growth, UTEX 411 and 265 produced 18:1 as the principal fatty acid while UTEX 1230 exhibited a 2.5-fold enrichment in 18:2 relative to 18:1. Although the total lipid content was highest in UTEX 411 during heterotrophy, UTEX 1230 demonstrated a two-fold increase in its heterotrophic TAG fraction at a rate of 28.9 mg L-1 d-1 to reach 22% of the biomass, corresponding to as much as 90% of its total lipids. Interestingly, UTEX 1230 growth was restricted during mixotrophy and its TAG production rate was suppressed to 18.2 mg L-1 d-1. This constraint on carbon flow raises intriguing questions about the impact of sugar and light on the metabolic regulation of microalgal lipid biosynthesis.