Growth inhibition of dinoflagellate algae in shake flasks: Not due to shear this time!



Large scale algae cultures present interesting challenges in that they exhibit characteristics of typical bacterial and animal cell cultures. One current commercial food additive, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is produced using the dinoflagellate algae, Crypthecodiniumcohnii. Like animal cell culture, the perceived sensitivity of algae culture to hydrodynamic forces has potentially limited the agitation and aeration applied to these systems. However, the high density cultivation of C. cohnii required for an economically feasible process inevitably results in high oxygen demand. In this study, we demonstrated what first appeared to be a problem with shear sensitivity in shake flasks is most probably a mass transfer limitation. We subsequently demonstrated the limit of chronic and rapid energy dissipation rate, EDR, that C. cohnii cells can experience. This limit was determined using a microfluidic device connected in a recirculation loop to a stirred tank bioreactor, which has been previously used to repeatedly expose animal cells to high levels of EDR. Inhibition of cell growth was observed when C. cohnii cells were subjected to an EDR of 5.9 × 106 W/m3 with an average frequency of 0.2/min or more. This level of EDR is sufficiently high that C. cohnii can withstand typically encountered hydrodynamic forces in bioprocesses. This result suggests that at least one dinoflagellate algae, C. cohnii, is quite robust with respect to hydrodynamic forces and the scale-up of process using this type of algae should be more concerned with providing sufficient gas transfer given the relatively high oxygen demand. © 2009 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 2010