Journal Article

From genetic improvement to commercial-scale mass culture of a Chilean strain of the green microalga Haematococcus pluvialis with enhanced productivity of the red ketocarotenoid astaxanthin

Patricia I. Gómez, Ingrid Inostroza, Mario Pizarro and Jorge Pérez

in AoB PLANTS

Published on behalf of Annals of Botany Company

Volume 5, issue Published in print January 2013 |
Published online June 2013 | e-ISSN: 2041-2851 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aobpla/plt026

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Astaxanthin is a red ketocarotenoid, widely used as a natural red colourant in marine fish aquaculture and poultry and, recently, as an antioxidant supplement for humans and animals. The green microalga Haematococcus pluvialis is one of the richest natural sources of this pigment. However, its slow growth rate and complex life cycle make mass culture difficult for commercial purposes. The aims of this research were (i) to standardize and apply a genetic improvement programme to a Chilean strain of H. pluvialis in order to improve its carotenogenic capacity and (ii) to evaluate the performance of a selected mutant strain in commercial-sized (125 000 L) open ponds in the north of Chile. Haematococcus pluvialis strain 114 was mutated by ethyl methanesulfonate. The level of mutagen dose (exposure time and concentration) was one that induced at least 90 % mortality. Surviving colonies were screened for resistance to the carotenoid biosynthesis inhibitor diphenylamine (25 µM). Resistant mutants were grown in a 30-mL volume for 30 days, after which the total carotenoid content was determined by spectrophotometry. Tens of mutants with improved carotenogenic capacity compared with the wild-type strain were isolated by the application of these standardized protocols. Some mutants exhibited curious morphological features such as spontaneous release of astaxanthin and loss of flagella. One of the mutants was grown outdoors in commercial-sized open ponds of 125 000 L in the north of Chile. Grown under similar conditions, the mutant strain accumulated 30 % more astaxanthin than the wild-type strain on a per dry weight basis and 72 % more on a per culture volume basis. We show that random mutagenesis/selection is an effective strategy for genetically improving strains of H. pluvialis and that improved carotenogenic capacity is maintained when the volume of the cultures is scaled up to a commercial size.

Keywords: Astaxanthin; commercial-sized open ponds; Haematococcus pluvialis mutant; North Chile; random mutagenesis.

Journal Article.  3882 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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