The unicellular green alga Haematococcus pluvialis Flotow is known for its massive accumulation of ketocarotenoids under various stress conditions. Therefore, this microalga is one of the favored organisms for biotechnological production of these antioxidative compounds. Astaxanthin makes up the main part of the secondary carotenoids and is accumulated mostly in an esterified form in extraplastidic lipid vesicles. We have studied phytoene desaturase, an early enzyme of the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway. The increase in the phytoene desaturase protein levels that occurs following induction is accompanied by a corresponding increase of its mRNA during the accumulation period, indicating that phytoene desaturase is regulated at the mRNA level. We also investigated the localization of the enzyme by western-blot analysis of cell fractions and by immunogold labeling of ultrathin sections for electron microscopy. In spite of the fact that secondary carotenoids accumulate outside the chloroplast, no extra pathway specific for secondary carotenoid biosynthesis in H. pluvialis was found, at least at this early stage in the biosynthesis. A transport process of carotenoids from the site of biosynthesis (chloroplast) to the site of accumulation (cytoplasmatic located lipid vesicles) is implicated.