• amino acids;
  • Gracilaria;
  • macroalgae;
  • nitrogen pools;
  • proteins;
  • storage;
  • Ulva

The accumulation of nitrogen in different cellular pools by the macroalgae Ulva fenestrata (Postels and Ruprecht) (Chlorophyta) and Gracilaria pacifica (Abbott) (Rhodophyta) was studied in a laboratory experiment. After 8 or 9 days of nitrogen enrichment, nitrate, ammonium, free amino acid (FAA), protein, chlorophyll (chl), phycoerythrin (PE), and insoluble nitrogen pools were extracted and analyzed, and their relative contribution to total nitrogen (TN) was assessed. In U. fenestrata, the nitrate and ammonium enrichments resulted in a significant increase of TN from 2.41% dry weight (dw) to 4.19% and 4.71% dw, respectively. All the extracted N pools increased significantly. In G. pacifica, TN increased more under ammonium enrichment than under nitrate enrichment. In both macroalgae, proteins and FAA were the most important N storage pools. Protein-N ranged from 700 to 2300 μmol N·g dw−1 (43%–66% of TN) and contributed the most to TN increase (41%–89%). The FAA pool was always larger in G. pacifica than in U. fenestrata. In both species, the FAA pool accounted for 4%–17% of TN (70–600 μmol N·g dw−1). In U. fenestrata, nitrate can represent a temporary storage pool: it accumulated up to 200 μmol N·g dw−1 (7% of TN) and contributed more than FAA to overall increase in cellular nitrogen. In contrast, G. pacifica had a small nitrate pool. The PE pool in G. pacifica increased with TN but was never more than 9% of total protein-N or 6% of TN, and it was less important than FAA as a storage pool. All TN was recovered in the extracted and insoluble N pools at the end of the experiment in U. fenestrata. In G. pacifica, the extracted and insoluble N pools accounted on average for 83%–90% of TN.