Microalgal lipids are valuable compounds of growing interest for health applications in food, feed and pharmaceutical industries. Especially, very long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (VLC-PUFAs) such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) are essential dietary components for animals and humans. Production of such nutritional and functional lipids from microalgae is a promising strategy, but still faces some challenges to make it cost-efficient. Knowledge on algal lipid metabolism is limited and research is needed to develop effective industrial cultivation strategies. Understanding the structural features and roles of diverse lipids in different lineages of microalgae is important for fundamental biology, bioprocessing and for using them as functional foods.
This project will address some of these challenges using state-of-the-art lipidomics and highly controlled experimental photobioreactors at the HelioBiotec platform (CEA). A novel cold-adapted microalga that synthesizes VLC-PUFAs will be tested to characterize its physiological and lipidomic changes under various environmental conditions. The data will elucidate the landscape of complex lipid molecular species and their dynamics in the microalga, providing unique insights into VLC-PUFA biosynthesis and roles of lipid in unexplored strains. The project results will provide new knowledge that is essential for development of industrial VLC-PUFA production from microalgae, to optimize bioprocessess including cultivation and extraction strategies of desired lipids and evaluation of nutritional qualities e.g. the bioavailability of algal feed and food products.