Sustainable production of biological materials for food and agricultural applications
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Microalgae are planet’s primary biological CO2/O2 converters. Today, microalgae are used in a wide range of areas; such as waste-water treatment, production of protein-rich food and feed additives, high value added compounds, carotenoids and biofuels. Nowadays, there is an increasing need for renewable energy sources, specifically biofuels due to the depletion of limited fossil fuels. For this purpose, microalgae have emerged as a promising third-generation biofuel source and present possible solution to energy problems. In the first part of this study, the aim was to determine and compare the effects of sulfur (S) and nitrogen (N) starvation on triacylglycerol (TAG) accumulation, which is used as a biodiesel feedstock, and related parameters in wild type Chlamydomonas reinhardtii CC-124 mt(-) and CC-125 mt(+) strains to improve the biodiesel production capacity. Cell division was interrupted, protein and chlorophyll levels rapidly declined while cell volume, total neutral lipid, carotenoid and carbohydrate content increased in response to nutrient deprivation. Microalgae under nutrient starvation were monitored by threedimensional confocal laser imaging of live cells and by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). FTIR measurement results showed that relative TAG, oligosaccharide and polysaccharide levels increased rapidly in response to nutrient starvation, especially in S starvation. Neutral lipid, TAG and carbohydrate levels reached their peak values following four days of N or S starvation. However considering that four days of S deprivation leads to an increased total biovolume and stimulates more lipid and carbohydrate accumulation, S starvation seems to be a better way of stimulating biodiesel feedstock production of wild type C. reinhardtii compared to N starvation. Carotenoids are lipid soluble compounds that play important role in acting provitamin-A, color materials and antioxidants that protect cells and tissues from free radicals and singlet oxygen. In nature, approximately 700 carotenoids have been isolated and characterized. However, there are some disadvantages of natural carotenoids such as being unsustainable and non-economic. Microalgae could serve sustainable solution to the production of natural carotenoids. The aim of the second part of this study was to identify new sources of natural, sustainable and inexpensive carotenoids and antioxidants from 12 isolated microalgae by determining their total carotenoid contents and antioxidant activity. These 12 microalgae were isolated from different water sources in Turkey. Results of this study demonstrated that among 12 microalgae strains, STA2, STA3 and STA9 contained substantial amounts of carotenoids in their metabolism and these carotenoids extracts showed strong antioxidant activity. With the ease of cultivation and high growth rate, these three microalgae strains have potential to use as natural and sustainable carotenoids for food, dietary supplement, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, feed and other related applications.