High-Level Accumulation of Triacylglycerol and Starch in Photoautotrophically Grown Chlamydomonas debaryana NIES-2212

Plant Cell Physiol. 2015 Dec;56(12):2447-56. doi: 10.1093/pcp/pcv163. Epub 2015 Nov 4.


Microalgae have the potential to produce triacylglycerol (TAG) and starch, which provide alternative sources of biofuel. A problem in using Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as a model for TAG production has been that this alga lacks phosphatidylcholine (PC), which is thought to be important for TAG synthesis in plants. We found that C. debaryana is one of the rare species of Chlamydomonas having PC. Here we show that this strain, grown under complete photoautotrophic conditions, accumulated TAG and starch up to 20 and 250 pg per cell, respectively, during the stationary phase without nutrient deprivation. Addition of nutrients in this state did not cause loss of TAG, which was found in dilution with fresh medium. The photosynthetically produced TAG contained a high level of monounsaturated fatty acids, which is a preferred property as a material for biodiesel. The oil bodies were present in the cytoplasm, either between the cytoplasmic membrane and the chloroplast or between the chloroplast and the nucleus, whereas the starch granules were present within the chloroplast. Oil bodies were also deposited as a broad layer in the peripheral space of the cytoplasm outside the chloroplast, and might be easily released from the cells by genetic, chemical or mechanical manipulation. These results suggest that C. debaryana is a promising seed organism for developing a good biofuel producer.

Keywords: Biofuel; Chlamydomonas debaryana NIES-2212; Fatty acid; Starch; Triacylglycerol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autotrophic Processes*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Chemical Fractionation
  • Chlamydomonas / growth & development*
  • Chlamydomonas / metabolism*
  • Chlamydomonas / ultrastructure
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Lipid Droplets / metabolism
  • Lipid Droplets / ultrastructure
  • Starch / metabolism*
  • Triglycerides / metabolism*


  • Fatty Acids
  • Triglycerides
  • Starch