Light and carbon limited photosynthesis of Chlorella sorokiniana

Hiroki Yoshida, Sabine van Oossanen, Maria J. Barbosa, Marcel Janssen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Carbon dioxide (CO2) and light are essential for high photosynthetic rates of microalgal cultures. Microalgal photosynthetic behavior at low CO2 concentrations has not been revealed yet at the same level of detail as leaf photosynthesis. In the present study, we investigated the short-term photosynthetic response of suspended Chlorella sorokiniana to limiting light intensity and CO2 concentration. We used a novel CO2-based photosynthesis monitor originating from leaf research but equipped with an aquatic chamber sparged with CO2 enriched air. Photosynthesis was measured by employing a steady-state CO2 mass balance over the chamber. Light and carbon response curves were determined under constant pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, light intensity or dissolved carbon dioxide. We determined the volumetric mass transfer coefficient of the aquatic chamber to accurately convert gaseous CO2 partial pressure into aqueous CO2 concentration to evaluate the CO2 response measurements. Light response measurements on dilute algal cultures revealed a high photosynthetic capacity on a time scale of minutes which by far exceeded the average CO2 uptake on a time scale of hours (cell growth). Light response measurements with dense and fully absorbing cultures provided accurate insight into the response of microalgal mass culture to changing incident irradiance, including the efficiency of photosynthesis of the algal culture as a whole. CO2 response measurements demonstrated severe CO2 limitation at dissolved CO2 levels of <20 μM giving a concrete target for optimization of CO2 supply in large-scale cultivation systems. Measurements at a background of either 21 % O2 (air) or 2 % O2 indicated the existence of photorespiration in Chlorella. Moreover, the magnitude of photorespiration first increased and then decreased again while reduced dissolved CO2 levels, indicating the activation of a carbon concentrating mechanism at low CO2. Simultaneous measurement of the quantum yield of PSII linear electron transport (ϕPSII) and CO2 uptake revealed the transition of CO2 limited photosynthesis towards light-limited photosynthesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102934
JournalAlgal Research
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • Carbon concentrating mechanism
  • Carbon response
  • CO-based photosynthesis monitor
  • Light response
  • Photorespiration


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