Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 139, Issue 1–3, pp 539–551 | Cite as

Influence of nitrogen source on photochemistry and antenna size of the photosystems in marine green macroalgae, Ulva lactuca

  • Akanksha Mhatre
  • Smita Patil
  • Akanksha Agarwal
  • Reena PanditEmail author
  • Arvind M. Lali
Original Article


Ulva lactuca is regarded as a prospective energy crop for biorefinery owing to its affluent biochemical composition and high growth rate. In fast-growing macroalgae, biomass development strictly depends on external nitrogen pools. Additionally, nitrogen uptake rates and photosynthetic pigment content vary with type of nitrogen source and light conditions. However, the combined influence of nitrogen source and light intensity on photosynthesis is not widely studied. In present study, pale green phenotype of U. lactuca was obtained under high light (HL) condition when inorganic nitrogen (nitrate) in the media was substituted with organic nitrogen (urea). Further, pale green phenotype survived the saturating light intensities in contrast to the normal pigmented control which bleached in HL. Detailed analysis of biochemical composition and photosynthesis was performed to understand functional antenna size and photoprotection in pale green phenotype. Under HL, urea-grown cultures exhibited increased growth rate, carbohydrate and lipid content while substantial reduction in protein, chlorophyll content and PSII antenna size was observed. Further, in vivo slow and polyphasic chlorophyll a (Chl a) fluorescence studies revealed reduction in excitation pressure on PSII along with low non-photochemical quenching thus, transmitting most of the absorbed energy into photochemistry. The results obtained could be correlated to previous report on cultivation of U. lactuca through saturating summer intensities (1000 µmole photons m−2 s−1) in urea based: poultry litter extract (PLE). Having proved critical role of urea in conforming photoprotection, the application PLE was authenticated for futuristic, sustainable and year-round biomass cultivation.

Graphical Abstract


Photosynthesis Antenna size NPQ Cyclic electron flow Ulva lactuca 



Cyclic electron flow

Chl a

Chlorophyll a


Control light

Cyt b6/f

Cytochrome b6/f






Dry weight


High light


Electron transport rate


Maximum electron transport rate


Minimum fluorescence


Maximum fluorescence


Variable fluorescence


Maximum quantum yield of PSII


Fresh weight


Efficiency of active reaction centres


Light harvesting complex




Non-photochemical quenching


Photochemical reaction centre of PSI


Poultry litter extract




Effective photochemical efficiency of PSII


Photosystem I/II


Reaction centre


Total nitrogen


Total organic carbon



The authors acknowledge Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), New Delhi for the support of this project under Grant Agreement No. DSIR/PACE/TDD, APPL/17/2013-2014.

Author contributions

The experiment was conceived and designed by AM, AA, SP, RP, AML. Experiments were performed by AM, AA. The data were analysed by AM. The manuscript was written by AM.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Akanksha Mhatre
    • 1
  • Smita Patil
    • 1
  • Akanksha Agarwal
    • 1
  • Reena Pandit
    • 1
    Email author
  • Arvind M. Lali
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.DBT-ICT Centre for Energy BiosciencesInstitute of Chemical TechnologyMumbaiIndia
  2. 2.Department of Chemical EngineeringInstitute of Chemical TechnologyMumbaiIndia

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