Photoheterotrophy in the production of phytoplankton organisms

B. J B Wood, P. H K Grimson, J. B. German, M. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Interest is growing in algae as sources of medicinal and other potentially useful compounds, as well as their use in fish rearing. We are interested in their production of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Photoautotrophic growth gives the highest levels of unsaturation in the fatty acid pool, but biomass concentrations are low. Heterotrophy on sugars gives higher biomass but seems to give more saturation in the fatty acids. In freshwater algae acetate has proved to be a good carbon source for photoheterotrophic growth, giving a crop with reasonably high levels of PUFA. In addition it is possible to regulate acetic acid addition through the pH change as acetate is used up in a well-aerated system, so achieving high biomass yields in the presence of relatively low acetate concentration. When we attempted to extend this to marine algae (principally species used in fish farming), we found that acetic acid was ineffective or sometimes toxic to most species tested, even at high pH. However, glycerol stimulated growth in a number of the algae. We report on this stimulation, and on the fatty acid composition of the resulting algal crop, discuss the problems in regulating the addition of this metabolite to algal cultures, and speculate on applications in the production of other useful algal metabolites. We also show that some of these algae used in fish farming grow best when the salinity of the water is rather less than that found in standard sea water.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-183
Number of pages9
JournalProgress in Industrial Microbiology
Issue numberC
StatePublished - 1999


  • Acetic acid
  • Algae
  • Autotrophy
  • Fish farming
  • Glycerol
  • Lipid composition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Biotechnology


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