Journal of Applied Phycology

, Volume 31, Issue 5, pp 2823–2832 | Cite as

Mixotrophic production of polyunsaturated fatty acids and carotenoids by the microalga Nannochloropsis gaditana

  • T. Menegol
  • G. I. Romero-Villegas
  • M. López-Rodríguez
  • E. Navarro-López
  • L. López-Rosales
  • Yusuf Chisti
  • M. C. Cerón-GarcíaEmail author
  • E. Molina-Grima


Microalgae are potential sources of high-value lipids and colorants for use in foods, cosmetics, and other applications. Biomass and metabolite productivities of photoautotrophic algae cultures are low because of limited availability of light. Therefore, mixotrophic cultures were investigated in parallel with photoautotrophic controls. In mixotrophy, some of the energy and carbon are supplied in the form of dissolved organic substrates in addition to inorganic carbon and light being available. The aim was to compare productivities of biomass, fatty acids, and carotenoid pigments in outdoor and indoor mixotrophic and photoautotrophic batch and continuous cultures. The edible and safe marine microalga Nannochloropsis gaditana was used in these studies. The alga could be grown mixotrophically using glucose and glycerol, but not acetate. Optimal concentrations of the organic carbon sources were 5 g L−1 for glucose and 1 g L−1 for glycerol. Mixotrophy substantially increased the biomass concentration and productivity relative to photoautotrophy. The maximum biomass productivity in mixotrophic batch cultures using glucose or glycerol was identical at 170 mg L−1 day−1, being 30% greater than control cultures. In continuous outdoor culture with glucose (5 g L−1) mixotrophy at 12 °C, the total carotenoids in the biomass were 83% higher compared to photoautotrophic control biomass, and the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) productivity was 2.2-fold higher relative to controls. The maximum EPA productivity was 11 mg L−1 day−1. Glucose mixotrophy increased the total lipids content in the biomass by 34% relative to photoautotrophic operation.


Eustigmatophyceae Nannochloropsis gaditana Mixotrophic growth Polyunsaturated fatty acids Carotenoids Eicosapentaenoic acid 


Funding information

This work was supported by the general secretariat of Universities, Research, and Technology of Andalucía Government (AGR-5334) and was co-financed with FEDER funds. Additional funding was provided by the Marine Microalgae Biotechnology Group (BIO173), the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (CTQ2014-55888-C3-02), and the European Regional Development Fund Program.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Food Science and Technology InstituteFederal University of Rio Grande do SulPorto AlegreBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Chemical EngineeringUniversity of AlmeríaAlmeríaSpain
  3. 3.School of EngineeringMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand

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