Effects of environmental conditions on growth and lipid accumulation in Nitzschia communis (Bacillariophyceae)

Thomas Dempster, Milton R. Sommerfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Microalgae from natural saline habitats in the southwestern United States were isolated and screened for rapid growth potential and ability to store intracellular neutral lipid, a precursor for renewable liquid fuel sources. After preliminary screening of isolated strains, Nitzschia communis (Rabenhorst) was selected for optimization of growth rate and lipid yield. Nitzschia communis was subjected to two media types (SERI I, II) with different major ion compositions designed to mimic natural saline groundwater aquifers in the arid Southwest. Growth rates were determined through 4 days of logarithmic growth, followed by 2 days of physiological stress (nitrogen deprivation) and subsequent measurement of neutral lipid accumulation. Poststress intracellular neutral lipid increases were documented by utilizing the fluorochrome Nile Red with fluorometric analysis and epifluorescent microscopy. Growth rate was slightly higher in SERI Type I medium, whereas lipid yield was higher in SERI Type II medium. Rapid growth and appreciable lipid yields were observed over a broad range of temperatures (20°-30°C) and specific conductances (10-70 mS·cm-1). The highest lipid yields were observed at elevated conductances (between 40 mS·cm-1 and 70 mS·cm-1). Substitution of individual salt concentrations from SERI Type II into SERI Type I medium indicated that increased lipid yield in Type I medium was associated with a reduction in MgCl2 concentration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)712-721
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Phycology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1998


  • Alternative liquid fuel
  • Microalgae
  • Neutral lipid
  • Nitzschia communis
  • Renewable liquid fuel
  • Storage lipid
  • Triolein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Plant Science


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