Microalgae are unicellular organisms of rapid growth. They are found in marine environment, freshwater, and soil. They have the potential to reduce emerging environmental problems, e.g. greenhouse effect and water pollution (Harun et al., 2010). The number of species of these organisms is not known exactly. However, the existence of 200 000 to several million of representatives of this group is estimated. This diversity is also reflected in their biochemical composition and their unlimited source of bioproducts (Coêlho et al., 2019).
Beyond the biofixation of CO2 from the atmosphere, the biomass formed by microalgae can be used as sources of chlorophyll, fatty acids, tocopherols, sterols, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and pigments (Kiss & Nêmeth, 2019), for the production of biofuels, e.g. biodiesel, biogas, bioethanol and hydrogen, organic fertilizer, natural dyes, pharmaceutical compounds, and nutrients for animal feed or even human food (Ribeiro et al., 2019).
Some fatty acids synthesized by microalgae, e.g. ω-3 and ω-6, are important in food and pharmaceutical industries, as they are the main precursors of hormones, e.g. prostaglandins, prostacyclins, leukotrienes, and thromboxanes (Pereira et al., 2012). In addition, three main groups of pigments are found in their biomass: chlorophylls, carotenoids, and phycobilins. Carotenoids are the pigments of greater commercial interest. Some strains can accumulate high concentrations of β-carotene, astaxanthin, or canthaxanthin, which have a wide application, e.g. dyes and natural antioxidants (Kiss & Nêmeth, 2019). Chlorophyll has antioxidant properties and high antimutagenic activity. Under ideal growth conditions, microalgae can accumulate about 4% of chlorophyll in dry weight. The species of green microalgae mostly have chlorophyll a and b (Harun et al., 2010).
The microalgae studied here have been extensively investigated for their role in production of biofuel (Nascimento et al., 2013, Dhup et al., 2016) and environmental protection (Minillo et al., 2013). However, few studies underline other biotechnological potentialities. Thus, the aim of this work was to evaluate the biotechnological potential of three microalgae strains from the species Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata, Scenedesmus spinosus, and Scenedesmus acuminatus, in terms of growth, biomass composition, fatty acid profile, and chlorophyll and carotenoids contents.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the Brazilian research funding agencies CNPq and FUNDECT for their financial support. We also thank Dagon Manoel Ribeiro for the skilled assistance with the fatty acid analyses. The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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