, Volume 12, Issue 3-5, pp 249-255

Nannochloropsis (Eustigmatophyceae) as source of commercially valuable pigments

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Pigment composition and its variation with culture agewere analyzed in six strains of Nannochloropsis(Eustigmatophyceae). The capacity for accumulationof the ketocarotenoids astaxanthin and canthaxanthinwas higher in N. salina and N. gaditanathan in the other strains studied here. Theinfluence of salinity (15 to 100 practical units) onpigment production was studied in N. gaditana,where a defined pattern of variation could not befound apart from a notable increase in zeaxanthin at100‰. In cultures grown in a photobioreactor and athigh cell densities of about 109 cells mL-1,pigment production reached: 350 mg L-1 forchlorophyll a, 50 mg L-1 for violaxanthin,5 mg L-1 for canthaxanthin, 3 mg L-1 forastaxanthin. The highest contents of canthaxanthin andastaxanthin obtained in experiments with N.gaditana were 19.4 and 14.6 ng pigment (106cells)-1, respectively, which accounts for 0.7%dry weight. By means of xanthophyll cycle inductionthrough exposure of cells to high irradiance and at40 °C, conversion of violaxanthin intozeaxanthin may attain up to 70% of the violaxanthincontent, which corresponds to 0.6% dry weight. Theresults indicate that interest in Nannochloropsis as a source of valuable pigments isnot related to its capacity for single pigmentaccumulation, but the availability of a range ofpigments such as chlorophyll a, zeaxanthin,canthaxanthin and astaxanthin, each with highproduction levels.