Accumulation of docosahexaenoic acid-rich lipid in thraustochytrid Aurantiochytrium sp. strain T66: effects of N and P starvation and O2 limitation

  • Anita N. JakobsenEmail author
  • Inga M. Aasen
  • Kjell D. Josefsen
  • Arne R. Strøm
Applied Microbial and Cell Physiology


Aurantiochytrium sp. strain T66 was grown in batch bioreactor cultures in a defined glutamate- and glycerol-containing growth medium. Exponentially growing cells had a lipid content of 13% (w/w) of dry weight. A fattening of cells fed excess glycerol occurred in the post-exponential growth phase, after the medium was depleted of N or P. Lipid accumulation was also initiated by O2 limitation (below 1% of saturation). N starvation per se, or in combination with O2 limitation, gave the highest lipid content, i.e., 54% to 63% (w/w) of dry weight. The corresponding maximum culture density was 90 to 100 g/l dry biomass. The content of docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3) in N starved, well-oxygenated cells reached 29% (w/w) of total fatty acids but increased to 36% to 52% in O2-limited cells, depending on the time span of the limitation. O2-limited cells did not accumulate the monounsaturated fatty acids that were normally present. We inferred that the biological explanation is that O2 limitation hindered the O2-dependent desaturase(s) and favored the O2-independent polyunsaturated fatty acid synthase. The highest overall volumetric productivity of docosahexaenoic acid observed was 93 mg/l/h. Additionally, we present a protocol for quantitative lipid extraction, involving heat and protease treatment of freeze-dried thraustochytrids.


Thraustochytrid Aurantiochytrium Docosahexaenoic acid Lipid accumulation Lipid extraction Nutrient starvation 



We are grateful to Kristin B. Antonsen for help with glutamate analysis and Trond E. Ellingsen for valuable comments to the manuscript. This work was supported by grants from the Research Council of Norway.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anita N. Jakobsen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Inga M. Aasen
    • 3
  • Kjell D. Josefsen
    • 3
  • Arne R. Strøm
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiotechnologyNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  2. 2.Department of Food TechnologySør-Trøndelag University CollegeTrondheimNorway
  3. 3.Department of BiotechnologySINTEF Materials and ChemistryTrondheimNorway

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