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Keywords:

  • astaxanthin;
  • Haematococcus pluvialis;
  • high light;
  • nitrogen starvation;
  • oleic acid;
  • triacylglycerols

The chlorophyte Haematococcus pluvialis accumulates large quantities of astaxanthin under stress conditions. Under either nitrogen starvation or high light, the production of each picogram of astaxanthin was accompanied by that of 5 or 3–4 pg of fatty acids, respectively. In both cases, the newly formed fatty acids, consisting mostly of oleic (up to 34% of fatty acids in comparison with 13% in the control), palmitic, and linoleic acids, were deposited mostly in triacylglycerols. Furthermore, the enhanced accumulation of oleic acid was linearily correlated with that of astaxanthin. Astaxanthin, which is mostly monoesterified, is deposited in globules made of triacylglycerols. We suggest that the production of oleic acid-rich triacylglycerols on the one hand and the esterification of astaxanthin on the other hand enable the oil globules to maintain the high content of astaxanthin esters.