Comparative Energetics of Carbon Storage Molecules in Green Algae

Lieve Laurens, Zaid McKie-Krisberg, Andy Huang, Jurgen Polle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus Citations


Several members of the green algae possess the ability to produce lipids and/or high value compounds in significant quantities. While for several of these green algal species induction of increased lipid production has been shown, and cultivation of species for high value molecules occurs at production scale, the molecular mechanisms governing over-accumulation of molecules synthesized from isoprenoid precursors, carotenoids, for example, have received far less attention. Here, we present a calculation of the required ATP equivalencies per carbon atom and reducing power equivalencies as NADH/NADPH (NAD(P)H) per carbon atom for the isoprenoid molecules β-carotene (C40), astaxanthin (C40), and squalene (C30). We compared energetic requirements of carbohydrates, triacylglycerol, and isoprenoid molecules under a gradient of conditions of cellular stress. Our calculations revealed slightly less ATP and NAD(P)H equivalency per carbon atom between triacylglycerol and the three isoprenoid molecules. Based on our results, we propose that the driving force for differences in accumulation patterns of carotenoids vs. triacylglycerols in algal cells under stress is largely dependent on the presence and regulation of bypass mechanisms at metabolic junction bottlenecks, like pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH), within particular species. We provide a discussion of several molecular mechanisms that may influence carbon partitioning within different groups of green algae, including metabolic inhibition through accumulation of specific substrates related to ATP and reducing equivalent production (NAD(P)H) as well as cellular compartmentalization. This work contributes to the ongoing discussion of cellular homeostatic regulation during stress, as well as the potential mechanisms driving long-term carbon storage as it relates to energy and redox states within the algal cell.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)326-333
Number of pages8
JournalAlgal Research
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-71139


  • energetics
  • green algae
  • lipid production


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