Original Article


, Volume 238, Issue 5, pp 895-906

First online:

Conversion of membrane lipid acyl groups to triacylglycerol and formation of lipid bodies upon nitrogen starvation in biofuel green algae Chlorella UTEX29

  • Elton C. GoncalvesAffiliated withPlant Molecular and Cellular Biology Program, Horticultural Sciences Department, University of Florida
  • , Jodie V. JohnsonAffiliated withChemistry Department, University of Florida
  • , Bala RathinasabapathiAffiliated withPlant Molecular and Cellular Biology Program, Horticultural Sciences Department, University of Florida Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Algal lipids are ideal biofuel sources. Our objective was to determine the contributors to triacylglycerol (TAG) accumulation and lipid body formation in Chlorella UTEX29 under nitrogen (N) deprivation. A fivefold increase in intracellular lipids following N starvation for 24 h confirmed the oleaginous characteristics of UTEX29. Ultrastructural studies revealed increased number of lipid bodies and decreased starch granules in N-starved cells compared to N-replete cells. Lipid bodies were observed as early as 3 h after N removal and plastids collapsed after 48 h of stress. Moreover, the identification of intracellular pyrenoids and differences in the expected nutritional requirements for Chlorella protothecoides (as UTEX29 is currently classified) led us to conduct a phylogenetic study using 18S and actin cDNA sequences. This indicated UTEX29 to be more phylogenetically related to Chlorella vulgaris. To investigate the fate of different lipids after N starvation, radiolabeling using 14C-acetate was used. A significant decrease in 14C-galactolipids and phospholipids matched the increase in 14C-TAG starting at 3 h of N starvation, consistent with acyl groups from structural lipids as sources for TAG under N starvation. These results have important implications for the identification of key steps controlling oil accumulation in N-starved biofuel algae and demonstrate membrane recycling during lipid body formation.


Biofuel Chlorella Galactolipid Radiolabeling Triacylglycerol Ultrastructure