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Enhanced Productivity of a Lutein-Enriched Novel Acidophile Microalga Grown on Urea

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Author(s): Carlos Casal | Maria Cuaresma | Jose Maria Vega | Carlos Vilchez

Journal: Marine Drugs
ISSN 1660-3397

Volume: 9;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 29;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: urea | Coccomyxa | extremophile microorganisms | lutein | microalgae

ABSTRACT
Coccomyxa acidophila is an extremophile eukaryotic microalga isolated from the Tinto River mining area in Huelva, Spain. Coccomyxa acidophila accumulates relevant amounts of b-carotene and lutein, well-known carotenoids with many biotechnological applications, especially in food and health-related industries. The acidic culture medium (pH < 2.5) that prevents outdoor cultivation from non-desired microorganism growth is one of the main advantages of acidophile microalgae production. Conversely, acidophile microalgae growth rates are usually very low compared to common microalgae growth rates. In this work, we show that mixotrophic cultivation on urea efficiently enhances growth and productivity of an acidophile microalga up to typical values for common microalgae, therefore approaching acidophile algal production towards suitable conditions for feasible outdoor production. Algal productivity and potential for carotenoid accumulation were analyzed as a function of the nitrogen source supplied. Several nitrogen conditions were assayed: nitrogen starvation, nitrate and/or nitrite, ammonia and urea. Among them, urea clearly led to the best cell growth (~4 ´ 108 cells/mL at the end of log phase). Ammonium led to the maximum chlorophyll and carotenoid content per volume unit (220 mg·mL-1 and 35 mg·mL-1, respectively). Interestingly, no significant differences in growth rates were found in cultures grown on urea as C and N source, with respect to those cultures grown on nitrate and CO2 as nitrogen and carbon sources (control cultures). Lutein accumulated up to 3.55 mg·g-1 in the mixotrophic cultures grown on urea. In addition, algal growth in a shaded culture revealed the first evidence for an active xanthophylls cycle operative in acidophile microalgae.
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