Formation of Spherical Palmelloid Colony with Enhanced Lipid Accumulation by Gel Encapsulation of Chlamydomonas debaryana NIES-2212

Plant Cell Physiol. 2020 Jan 1;61(1):158-168. doi: 10.1093/pcp/pcz188.


Microalgae such as Chlamydomonas reinhardtii accumulate triacylglycerol (TAG), which is a potential source of biofuels, under stress conditions such as nitrogen deprivation, whereas Chlamydomonas debaryana NIES-2212 has previously been identified and characterized as one of the rare species of Chlamydomonas, which massively accumulates TAG in the stationary phase without external stress. As the high density of the cells in the stationary phase was supposed to act as a trigger for the accumulation of TAG in C. debaryana, in this study, C. debaryana was encapsulated in a Ca2+-alginate gel for the culture with high cell density. We discovered that the growth of the encapsulated cells resulted in the formation of spherical palmelloid colonies with high cell density, where daughter cells with truncated flagella remained wrapped within the mother cell walls. Interestingly, gel encapsulation markedly promoted proliferation of C. debaryana cells, and the encapsulated cells reached the stationary phase earlier than that of the free-living cells. Gel encapsulation also enhanced TAG accumulation. Gene expression analysis revealed that two genes of acyltransferases, DGAT1 and DGTT3, were upregulated in the stationary phase of free-living C. debaryana. In addition, the gene expression of these acyltransferases increased earlier in the encapsulated cells than that in the free-living cells. The enhanced production of TAG by alginate gel encapsulation was not found in C. reinhardtii which is known to use a different repertoire of acyltransferases in lipid accumulation.

Keywords: Chlamydomonas; Acyltransferase; Alginate gel; Gel encapsulation; Palmelloid colony; Triacylglycerol.

MeSH terms

  • Acyltransferases / genetics
  • Acyltransferases / metabolism
  • Alginates
  • Biofuels
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Chlamydomonas / cytology
  • Chlamydomonas / genetics
  • Chlamydomonas / growth & development*
  • Chlamydomonas / metabolism*
  • Chlorophyll / analysis
  • Diacylglycerol O-Acyltransferase / genetics
  • Diacylglycerol O-Acyltransferase / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Gels
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Microalgae / metabolism*
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcriptome
  • Triglycerides / metabolism*


  • Alginates
  • Biofuels
  • Fatty Acids
  • Gels
  • Plant Proteins
  • Triglycerides
  • Chlorophyll
  • Acyltransferases
  • Diacylglycerol O-Acyltransferase
  • Nitrogen