Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 61, Issue 5–6, pp 545–551 | Cite as

Interactions between irradiance and nutrient availability during astaxanthin accumulation and degradation in Haematococcus pluvialis

  • J. Fábregas
  • A. Domínguez
  • A. Maseda
  • A. Otero
Original Paper


Fully synchronised germination of Haematococcus pluvialis astaxanthin-replete aplanospores was induced by transfer to nitrogen-sufficient conditions under either high or low light intensities, and growth, pigment content and nitrogen consumption were monitored during the cell cycle. No germination of the aplanospores was achieved in the absence of nitrate, even when cells were transferred at low light intensities. On the other hand, cell density and chlorophyll concentration increased dramatically and astaxanthin concentration decreased in N-sufficient cultures due to the germination of 100% of the aplanospores, as demonstrated by flow cytometry. No significant effect of light intensity was observed on the degradation of astaxanthin during germination. In germinated cultures, nitrogen was depleted more rapidly under high light conditions, which resulted in earlier entry into the aplanospore stage and accumulation of astaxanthin. Germination of aplanospores accompanied by astaxanthin degradation could also be obtained in the dark in nutrient-sufficient conditions although at a much lower efficiency. The results demonstrate that nutrient availability is the main factor controlling the transition between red and green stages of H. pluvialis, with astaxanthin being accumulated only when cell division has ceased. High light levels accelerate the process by increasing the rate of nutrient depletion and providing more energy for astaxanthin synthesis.


Carotenoid Astaxanthin High Light Intensity High Light Condition Photoprotective Role 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by the EC project FAIR 97–1518: "Development of Microalgal Pigments for Aquaculture". We are grateful to F. Hoffman-La Roche Ltd. for kindly providing Astaxanthin and Zeaxanthin standards and to Dr. A. Cid and C. Rioboo from the University of A Coruña for flow cytometry analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Fábregas
    • 1
  • A. Domínguez
    • 1
  • A. Maseda
    • 1
  • A. Otero
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratorio de Microbiología, Facultad de FarmaciaUniversidad de SantiagoSantiagoSpain

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