High oxygen:carbon dioxide ratios may have a negative effect on growth and productivity of microalgae. To investigate the effect of O2 and CO2 concentrations and the ratio between these on the metabolism of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii we performed turbidostat experiments at different O2:CO2 ratios. These experiments showed that elevated O2 concentrations and the corresponding increase in the ratio of O2:CO2 common in photobioreactors led to a reduction of growth and biomass yield on light with 20–30%. This is most probably related to the oxygenase activity of Rubisco and the resulting process of photorespiration. Using metabolic flux modeling with measured rates for each experiment we were able to quantify the ratio of the oxygenase reaction to the carboxylase reaction of Rubisco and could demonstrate that photorespiration indeed can cause the reduction in biomass yield on light. The calculated ratio of the oxygenase reaction to the carboxylase reaction was 16.6% and 20.5% for air with 2% CO2 and 1% CO2, respectively. Thus photorespiration has a significant impact on the biomass yield on light already at conditions common in photobioreactors (air with 2% CO2).
- quantum requirement