Effect of Nutrient Starvation under High Irradiance on Lipid and Starch Accumulation in Chlorella fusca (Chlorophyta)

Mar Biotechnol (NY). 2016 Feb;18(1):24-36. doi: 10.1007/s10126-015-9664-6.


The effect of nitrogen and sulphur limitation under high irradiance (PAR) was studied in the green microalga Chlorella fusca (Chlorophyta) in order to follow lipid and/or starch accumulation. Growth, biomass composition and the changes in photosynthetic activity (in vivo chlorophyll a fluorescence) were followed in the trials. The full nutrient culture showed high biomass production and starch accumulation at Day 1, when photosynthetic activity was high. Gradual deprivation (no nutrients added) became evident when photosynthesis was significantly suppressed (Day 3 onwards), which entailed a decrease of maximum relative electron transport rate (rETRmax) and increase of non-photochemical quenching (NPQ), accompanied by the onset of lipid accumulation and decline in starch content. In N- and S-starved cultures, rETRmax significantly decreased by Day 3, which caused a substantial drop in biomass production, cell number, biovolume and induction of lipid and starch accumulation. High starch content (45-50 % of DW) was found at the initial stage in full nutrient culture and at the stationary phase in nutrient-starved cultures. By the end of the trial, all treatments showed high lipid content (~30 % of DW). The full nutrient culture had higher biomass yield than starved treatments although starch (~0.2 g L(-1) day(-1)) and lipid (~0.15 g L(-1) day(-1) productivities were fairly similar in all the cultures. Our results showed that we could enrich biomass of C. fusca (% DW) in lipids using a two-stage strategy (a nutrient replete stage followed by gradual nutrient limitation) while under either procedure, N- or S-starvation, both high lipid and starch contents could be achieved.

MeSH terms

  • Chlorella / physiology*
  • Chlorella / radiation effects
  • Light
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology*
  • Lipid Metabolism / radiation effects
  • Nitrogen / metabolism*
  • Photosynthesis / physiology
  • Photosynthesis / radiation effects
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Starch / metabolism*
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*
  • Stress, Physiological / radiation effects
  • Sulfur / metabolism*


  • Sulfur
  • Starch
  • Nitrogen