Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society

, Volume 73, Issue 8, pp 1025–1031 | Cite as

Eicosapentaenoic acid (20∶5n-3) from the marine microalgaPhaeodactylum tricornutum

  • M. Cartens
  • E. Molina Grima
  • A. Robles Medina
  • A. Giménez Giménez
  • J. Ibáñez González


Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20∶5n-3) was obtained from the marine microalgaePhaeodactylum tricornutum by a three-step process: fatty acid extraction by direct saponification of biomass, polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) concentration by formation of urea inclusion compounds, and EPA isolation by semipreparative high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Alternatively, EPA was obtained by a similar two-step process without the PUFA concentration step by the urea method. Direct saponification of biomass was carried out with two solvents that contained KOH for lipid saponification. An increase in yield was obtained because the problems associated with emulsion formation were avoided by separating the biomass from the soap solution before adding hexane for extraction of insaponifiables. The most efficient solvent, ethanol (96%) at 60°C for 1 h, extracted 98.3% of EPA. PUFA were concentrated by the urea method with a urea/fatty acid ratio of 4∶1 at a crystallization temperature of 28°C and by using methanol and ethanol as urea solvents. An EPA concentration ratio of 1.73 (55.2∶31.9) and a recover yield of 78.6% were obtained with methanol as the urea solvent. This PUFA concentrate was used to obtain 93.4% pure EPA by semipreparative HPLC with a reverse-phase, C18, 10 mm i.d.×25-cm column and methanol/water (1% acetic acid), 80∶20 w/w, as the mobile phase. Eighty-five percent of EPA loaded was recovered, and 65.7% of EPA present inP. tricornutum biomass was recovered in highly pure form by this three-step downstream process. Alternatively, 93.6% pure EPA was isolated from the fatty acid extract (without the PUFA concentration step) with 100% EPA recovery yield. This two-step process increases the overall EPA yield to 98.3%, but it is only possible to obtain 20% as much EPA as that obtained by three-step downstream processing.

Key Words

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) Phaeodactylum tricornutum downstream processing of microalgae urea inclusion method HPLC purification 


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Copyright information

© AOCS Press 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Cartens
    • 1
  • E. Molina Grima
    • 2
  • A. Robles Medina
    • 2
  • A. Giménez Giménez
    • 2
  • J. Ibáñez González
    • 3
  1. 1.Departmento de Ingeniería QuímicaUniversidad de la PatagoniaComodoro RivadaviaArgentina
  2. 2.Departamento de Ingeniería Química. Facultad de Ciencias ExperimentalesUniversidad de AlmeríaAlmeríaSpain
  3. 3.Derivados del Etilo S.A.AlmeríaSpain

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