Journal of Applied Phycology

, Volume 24, Issue 5, pp 1311–1320 | Cite as

Use of sodium bicarbonate to stimulate triacylglycerol accumulation in the chlorophyte Scenedesmus sp. and the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum

  • Robert D. Gardner
  • Keith E. CookseyEmail author
  • Florence Mus
  • Richard Macur
  • Karen Moll
  • Everett Eustance
  • Ross P. Carlson
  • Robin Gerlach
  • Matthew W. Fields
  • Brent M. PeytonEmail author


There is potential for algal-derived biofuel to help alleviate part of the world’s dependency on petroleum based fuels. However, research must still be done on strain selection, induction of triacylglycerol (TAG) accumulation, and fundamental algal metabolic studies, along with large-scale culturing techniques, harvesting, and biofuel/biomass processing. Here, we have advanced the knowledge on Scenedesmus sp. strain WC-1 by monitoring growth, pH, and TAG accumulation on a 14:10 light–dark cycle with atmospheric air or 5% CO2 in air (v/v) aeration. Under ambient aeration, there was a loss of pH-induced TAG accumulation, presumably due to TAG consumption during the lower culture pH observed during dark hours (pH 9.4). Under 5% CO2 aeration, the growth rate nearly doubled from 0.78 to 1.53 d−1, but the pH was circumneutral (pH 6.9) and TAG accumulation was minimal. Experiments were also performed with 5% CO2 during the exponential growth phase, which was then switched to aeration with atmospheric air when nitrate was close to depletion. These tests were run with and without the addition of 50 mM sodium bicarbonate. Cultures without added bicarbonate showed decreased growth rates with the aeration change, but there was no immediate TAG accumulation. The cultures with bicarbonate added immediately ceased cellular replication and rapid TAG accumulation was observed, as monitored by Nile Red fluorescence which has previously been correlated by gas chromatography to cellular TAG levels. Sodium bicarbonate addition (25 mM final concentration) was also tested with the marine diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum strain Pt-1 and this organism also accumulated TAG.


Triacylglycerol (TAG) Algae Biodiesel Fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) Nile Red fluorescence 



The authors would like to thank all members of the MSU Algal Biofuels Group for intellectual support. Also of special note is the instrumental support from the MSU Center for Biofilm Engineering and the MSU Environmental and Biofilm Mass Spectrometry Facility.

Financial disclosure

Funding was provided by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR grant FA9550-09-1-0243), US Department of Energy (Office of Biomass Production grant DE-FG36-08GO18161), and partial support for RDG was provided by NSF IGERT Program in Geobiological Systems (DGE 0654336) at MSU.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert D. Gardner
    • 1
  • Keith E. Cooksey
    • 2
    Email author
  • Florence Mus
    • 1
    • 2
  • Richard Macur
    • 1
  • Karen Moll
    • 2
  • Everett Eustance
    • 1
  • Ross P. Carlson
    • 1
  • Robin Gerlach
    • 1
  • Matthew W. Fields
    • 2
  • Brent M. Peyton
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Chemical and Biological EngineeringMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA
  2. 2.Department of MicrobiologyMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA

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