Screening and characterization of Isochrysis strains and optimization of culture conditions for docosahexaenoic acid production

Jin Liu, Qiang Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Isochrysis is a genus of marine unicellular microalgae that produces docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C22:6), a very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) of significant health and nutritional value. Mass cultivation of Isochrysis for DHA production for human consumption has not been established due to disappointing low DHA productivity obtained from commonly used Isochrysis strains. In this study, 19 natural Isochrysis strains were screened for DHA yields and the results showed that the cellular DHA content ranged from 6.8 to 17.0 % of total fatty acids with the highest DHA content occurring in the exponential growth phase. Isochrysis galbana #153180 exhibited the greatest DHA production potential and was selected for further investigation. The effects of different light intensities, forms, and concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, and salinity on growth and DHA production of I. galbana #153180 were studied in a bubble column photobioreactor (PBR). Under favorable culture conditions, I. galbana #153180 contained DHA up to 17.5 % of total fatty acids or 1.7 % of cell dry weight. I. galbana #153180 was further tested in outdoor flat-plate PBRs varying in light path length, starting cell density (SCD), and culture mode (batch versus semicontinuous). When optimized, record high biomass and DHA productivity of I. galbana #153180 of 0.72 g L-1 day-1 and 13.6 mg L-1 day-1, or 26.4 g m-2 day -1 and 547.7 mg m-2 day-1, respectively, were obtained, suggesting that I. galbana #153180 may be a desirable strain for commercial production of DHA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4785-4798
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2013


  • Culture mode
  • DHA
  • Isochrysis galbana
  • Light intensity
  • Photobioreactor
  • Strain screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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