Influence of light absorption rate on the astaxanthin production by the microalga Haematococcus pluvialis during nitrogen starvation

Khadija Samhat*, Antoinette Kazbar, Hosni Takache, Ali Ismail, Jeremy Pruvost

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Large amounts of astaxanthin (about 4% DW) can be produced under nitrogen starvation of Haematococcus pluvialis in photobioreactors (PBRs) exposed to high light conditions to induce a light stress. However, in PBR, the large biomass concentration usually achieved leads to strong light attenuation conditions, which makes complex the analysis of this “light stress”. This study aims to elucidate the role of light transfer in astaxanthin cell content and productivity from the microalga Haematococcus pluvialis during nitrogen starvation. Haematococcus pluvialis was cultivated in a flat-panel PBR in a batch mode with sudden nitrogen starvation conditions and an incident photon flux density (PFD) of 250 µmol m−2 s−1. Different initial biomass concentrations (Cx0) were evaluated, 0.21, 0.52, 1.39 and 2.21 kg m−3. As a result, spectral mass absorption cross-sections of Haematococcus pluvialis were measured at different times during nitrogen starvation, and were used to relate the mean rate of photon absorption (MRPA) to the astaxanthin productivity. A minimum initial MRPA of 7000 ± 500 µmol kgx−1 s−1 was found necessary to trigger large accumulation of astaxanthin in Haematococcus pluvialis cells (up to 3.21% DW) during nitrogen starvation conditions. The results also demonstrated the link between the MRPA and the daily astaxanthin productivity of Haematococcus pluvialis cultures, introducing then the MRPA as a physical quantity of interest for a rational optimization of the light culture conditions in PBRs. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Article number78
JournalBioresources and Bioprocessing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Astaxanthin accumulation
  • Haematococcus pluvialis
  • Light transfer
  • Nitrogen starvation
  • Photobioreactor
  • Photosynthesis


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