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Algal Photosynthesis

  1. James V Moroney1,
  2. Ruby A Ynalvez2

Published Online: 15 SEP 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000322.pub2



How to Cite

Moroney, J. V. and Ynalvez, R. A. 2009. Algal Photosynthesis. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    Louisiana State University, Louisiana, USA

  2. 2

    Texas A&M International University, Texas, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2009


Algae are a very diverse group of predominantly aquatic photosynthetic organisms that account for almost 50% of the photosynthesis that takes place on Earth. Algae have a wide range of antenna pigments to harvest light energy for photosynthesis giving different types of algae their characteristic colour. Early work done with algae contributed much to what is presently known about the carbon dioxide fixation pathway and the light harvesting reactions. The processes of photosynthesis in algae and higher plants are very similar. From among the three types of carbon dioxide-concentrating mechanisms known in photosynthetic organisms, two types are found in different types of algae. Algae are proposed to play a role in the global carbon cycle by helping remove excess carbon dioxide from the environment. Recently, algae are recognized as a promising biodiesel source due to its efficient absorption and conversion of solar energy into chemical energy.

Key Concepts:

  • Algal photosynthesis account for almost half of the photosynthetic carbon fixed every year.

  • Scientists have utilized different algal species including algal mutants to study different aspects of photosynthesis.

  • Algae's efficiency at pulling inorganic carbon out of the environment is dependent on growth condition which implies the presence of an inducible carbon dioxide-concentrating mechanism in algal cells.

  • The proposed mechanism for carbon dioxide acquisition in algae includes active HCO3 accumulation, Rubisco packaging in specialized structures and the presence of a carbonic anhydrase near the location of Rubisco.

  • Carbonic anhydrase is an enzyme that interconverts carbon dioxide and hydrogencarbonate which supply Rubisco with carbon dioxide from the pool of HCO3.

  • The major antenna pigments in algae include chlorophylls, phycobiliproteins and carotenoids and the variation in the composition and relative abundance of these pigments give algae their distinctive colour.

  • Antenna complexes are proteins with many bound antenna pigments which are important in absorbing light energy.

  • Algal photosynthesis is thought to increase with increase in nutrient, that is, N, P and Fe availability.

  • If the algal photosynthesis would increase more carbon dioxide would be removed from the environment.

  • Algae grow faster and are very efficient in absorbing and converting solar energy into chemical energy which is mainly in the form of triacylglycerols.


  • algae;
  • photosynthesis;
  • Calvin cycle;
  • phytoplankton