Microalgae are viewed as a potential future agricultural and biofuel feedstock and also provide an ideal biological means of carbon sequestration based on rapid growth rates and high biomass yields. Any potential improvement using high-yield microalgae to fix carbon will require additional fertilizer inputs to provide the necessary nitrogen required for protein and nucleotide biosynthesis. The free-living diazotroph Azotobacter vinelandii can fix nitrogen under aerobic conditions in the presence of reduced carbon sources such as sucrose or glycerol and is also known to produce a variety of siderophores to scavenge different metals from the environment. In this study, we identified two strains of green algae, Neochloris oleoabundans and Scenedesmus sp. BA032, that are able to utilize the A. vinelandii siderophore azotobactin as a source of nitrogen to support growth. When grown in a co-culture, S. sp. BA032 and N. oleoabundans obtained the nitrogen required for growth through the association with A. vinelandii. These results, indicating a commensalistic relationship, provide a proof of concept for developing a mutualistic or symbiotic relationship between these two species using siderophores as a nitrogen shuttle and might further indicate an additional fate of siderophores in the environment.
Keywords: Azotobacter vinelandii; Neochloris oleoabundans; Scenedesmus; Siderophore; nitrogen.
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