Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Isolation and characterization of a Scenedesmus acutus strain to be used for bioremediation of urban wastewater


Green microalgae, due to their short growth cycle and to their ability to photosynthetically fix carbon dioxide producing an oil-rich biomass, have been proposed as an attractive alternative feedstock for the production of “second generation” biofuels. However, it has been anticipated that owing to their ability to colonize very different environments characterized by high levels of nitrogen, they can also be good candidates for bioremediation, thus integrating environmental protection with sustainable biomass production. We have isolated a strain belonging to Scenedesmus genus from urban wastewater. This isolate, Scenedesmus acutus PVUW12, was tested for its ability to grow and actively deplete eutrophicating inorganic molecules present in wastewater. In order to test its biomass productivity, the PVUW12 strain was grown in a vertical-column photobioreactor using standard growth medium obtaining a maximal productivity of 0.3 g dry weight L−1 d. When the same strain was grown in the photobioreactor filled with wastewater collected from the final step of the local urban purifier plant containing 18.8 mg L−1 nitrate, we observed complete nitrogen removal coupled with a biomass production of about 0.74 g dry weight L−1 within 3 days. After 10 days, the recovered biomass was analyzed for triglyceride content which was found to be 9.3% of the dry biomass. However, when algal cells were left for additional 10 days in static conditions the triglyceride content increased to 28.8%. These data show that this Scenedesmus strain can be used for wastewater bioremediation producing a biomass suitable for energy production.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5


  1. Bernhardt ES, Band LE, Walsh CJ, Berke PE (2008) Understanding, managing, and minimizing urban impacts on surface water nitrogen loading. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1134:61–96

  2. Bligh EG, Dyer WJ (1959) A rapid method of total lipid extraction and purification. Can J Biochem Physiol 37:911–917

  3. Brennan L, Owende P (2010) Biofuels from microalgae: a review of technologies for production, processing and extraction of biofuels and co-products. Renew Sust Energy Rev 14:557–577

  4. Camargo JA, Alonso A (2006) Ecological and toxicological effects of inorganic nitrogen pollution in aquatic ecosystems: a global assessment. Environ Int 32:831–849

  5. Carvalho AP, Meireles LA, Malcata FX (2006) Microalgal reactors: a review of enclosed system designs and performances. Biotechnol Prog 22:1490–1506

  6. Chisti Y (2008) Biodiesel from microalgae beats bioethanol. Trends Biotechnol 26:126–131

  7. Choi S-L, Suh IS, Lee C-G (2003) Lumostatic operation of bubble column photobioreactors for Haematococcus pluvialis cultures using a specific light uptake rate as a control parameter. Enzyme Microb Technol 33:403–409

  8. Clarens AF, Resurreccion EP, White MA, Colosi LM (2010) Environmental life cycle comparison of algae to other bioenergy feedstocks. Environ Sci Technol 44:1813–1819

  9. De-Bashan LE, Trejo A, Huss VA, Hernandez JP, Bashan Y (2008) Chlorella sorokiniana UTEX 2805, a heat and intense, sunlight-tolerant microalga with potential for removing ammonium from wastewater. Bioresour Technol 99:4980–4989

  10. Eriksen NT (2008) The technology of microalgal culturing. Biotechnol Lett 30:1525–1536

  11. Ferroni L, Baldisserotto C, Pantaleoni L, Billi P, Fasulo MP, Pancaldi S (2007) High salinity alters chloroplast morpho-physiology in a freshwater Kirchneriella species (Selenastraceae) from Ethiopian Lake Awasa. Am J Bot 94:1972–1983

  12. García-Malea López MC, Del Río Sánchez E, Casas López JL, Acién Fernández FG, Fernández Sevilla JM, Rivas J, Guerrero MG, Molina E (2006) Comparative analysis of the outdoor culture of Haematococcus pluvialis in tubular and bubble column photobioreactors. J Biotechnol 123:329–342

  13. Gonzalez C, Marciniak J, Villaverde S, Garcıa-Encina P, Munoz R (2008) Microalgae-based processes for the biodegradation of pretreated piggery wastewaters. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 80:891–898

  14. Griffiths MJ, Harrison STL (2009) Lipid productivity as a key characteristic for choosing algal species for biodiesel production. J Appl Phycol 21:493–507

  15. Guschina IA, Harwood LJ (2006) Lipids and lipid metabolism in eukaryotic algae. Prog Lipid Res 45:160–186

  16. Janvanmardian M, Palsson BO (1991) High density photoautotrophic algal cultures: design, construction and operation of a novel photo-bioreactor system. Biotechnol Bioeng 38:1182–1189

  17. Kaewpintong K, Shotipruk A, Powtongsook S, Pavasant P (2007) Photoautotrophic high-density cultivation of vegetative cells of Haematococcus pluvialis in airlift bioreactor. Bioresour Technol 98:288–295

  18. Koelmans AA, Van Der Heijde A, Knijff LM, Aalderin RH (2001) Integrated modeling of eutrophication and organic contaminant fate and effects in aquatic ecosystems. Water Res 35:3517–3536

  19. Kumar K, Dasgupta CN, Nayak B, Lindblad P, Das D (2011) Development of suitable photobioreactors for CO2 sequestration addressing global warming using green algae and cyanobacteria. Bioresour Technol 102:4945–4953

  20. Küpper H, Šetlík I, Spiller M, Küpper FC, Prášil O (2002) Heavy metal-induced inhibition of photosynthesis: targets of in vivo heavy metal chlorophyll formation. J Phycol 38:429–441

  21. Li X, Hong-Ying H, Ke G, Jia Y (2010a) Growth and nutrient removal properties of a freshwater microalga Scenedsmus sp LX1under different kinds of nitrogen sources. Ecol Eng 36:379–381

  22. Li X, Hong-Ying H, Ke G, Jia Y (2010b) Lipid accumulation and nutrient removal properties of a newly isolated freshwater microalga, Scenedesmus sp LX1, growing in secondary effluent. New Biotechnol 27:59–63

  23. Lovanh N, Warren J, Sistani K (2010) Determination of ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions from land application of swine slurry: a comparison of three application methods. Bioresour Technol 101:1662–1667

  24. Mandal S, Mallick N (2009) Microalga Scenedesmus obliquus as a potential source for biodiesel production. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 84:281–291

  25. Park J, Jin HF, Lim BR, Park KY, Lee K (2010) Ammonia removal from anaerobic digestion effluent of livestock waste using green alga Scenedesmus sp. Bioresour Technol 101:8649–8657

  26. Park JB, Craggs RJ, Shilton AN (2011) Wastewater treatment high rate algal ponds for biofuel production. Bioresour Technol 102:35–42

  27. Rodolfi L, Chini Zittelli G, Bassi N, Padovani G, Biondi N, Bonini G, Tredici MR (2009) Microalgae for oil: strain selection, induction of lipid synthesis and outdoor mass cultivation in a low-cost photobioreactor. Biotechnol Bioeng 102:100–112

  28. Ruiz-Marin A, Mendoza-Espinosa LG, Stephenson T (2010) Growth and nutrient removal in free and immobilized green algae in batch and semi-continuous cultures treating real wastewater. Bioresour Technol 101:58–64

  29. Sanchez Miron A, Ceron Garcıa MC, Garcıa Camacho F, Molina Grima E, Chisti Y (2002) Growth and characterization of microalgal biomass produced in bubble column and airlift photobioreactors: studies in fed-batch culture. Enzyme Microb Technol 31:1015–1023

  30. Ugwu CU, Aoyagi H, Uchiyama H (2008) Photobioreactors for mass cultivation of algae. Bioresour Technol 99:4021–4028

  31. Vega-Estrada J, Montes-Horcasitas MC, Dominıgues-Bocanegra AR, Canizares-Villanueva RO (2005) Haematococcus pluvialis cultivation in split-cylinder internal-loop airlift photobioreactor under aeration conditions avoiding cell damage. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 68:31–35

  32. Yamaberi K, Takagi M, Yoshida T (1998) Nitrogen depletion for intracellular triglyceride accumulation to enhance liquefaction yield of marine microalgal cells into a fuel oil. J Mar Biotechnol 6:44–48

  33. Yang XE, Wu X, Hao HL, He ZL (2008) Mechanisms and assessment of water eutrophication. J Zhejiang Univ Sci B 9:197–209

  34. Zachleder V, Šetlík I (1982) Effect of irradiance on the course of RNA synthesis in the cell cycle of Scenedesmus quadricauda. Biol Plantarum 24:341–353

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to E. Doria.

Additional information

E. Doria and P. Longoni contributed equally to the work.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Doria, E., Longoni, P., Scibilia, L. et al. Isolation and characterization of a Scenedesmus acutus strain to be used for bioremediation of urban wastewater. J Appl Phycol 24, 375–383 (2012).

Download citation


  • Nitrogen consumption
  • Scenedesmus acutus
  • Wastewater
  • Photobioreactor