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Co-culturing Chlorella minutissima with Escherichia coli can increase neutral lipid production and improve biodiesel quality.

  • Author(s): Higgins, Brendan T
  • Labavitch, John M
  • VanderGheynst, Jean S
  • et al.

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Lipid productivity and fatty acid composition are important metrics for the production of high quality biodiesel from algae. Our previous results showed that co-culturing the green alga Chlorella minutissima with Escherichia coli under high-substrate mixotrophic conditions enhanced both culture growth and crude lipid content. To investigate further, we analyzed neutral lipid content and fatty acid content and composition of axenic cultures and co-cultures produced under autotrophic and mixotrophic conditions. We found that co-culturing C. minutissima with E. coli under high substrate conditions (10 g/L) increased neutral lipid content 1.9- to 3.1-fold and fatty acid content 1.5- to 2.6-fold compared to equivalent axenic C. minutissima cultures. These same co-cultures also exhibited a significant fatty acid shift away from trienoic and toward monoenoic fatty acids thereby improving the quality of the synthesized fatty acids for biodiesel production. Further investigation suggested that E. coli facilitates substrate uptake by the algae and that the resulting growth enhancement induces a nitrogen-limited condition. Enhanced carbon uptake coupled with nitrogen limitation is the likely cause of the observed neutral lipid accumulation and fatty acid profile changes.

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