Mild and Selective Protein Release of Cell Wall Deficient Microalgae with Pulsed Electric Field

Gerard 't Lam*, Jelmer A. van der Kolk, Akshita Chordia, Marian H. Vermuë, Giuseppe Olivieri, Michel H.M. Eppink, René H. Wijffels

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Pulsed electric field (PEF) is considered to be a very promising technology for mild cell disruption. The application of PEF for microalgae that have a rigid cell wall, however, is hampered by the presence of that rigid outer cell wall. A cell wall free mutant of C. reinhardtii was used to mimic pretreated microalgae with removed cell wall, to investigate the possibility of using PEF for protein release from microalgae. A complete release of hydrophilic proteins from the cell wall free mutants was observed whereas PEF treatment on the cell wall containing species resulted in substantially lower protein yields. Additional experiments showed that even at low energy input (0.05 kWh/kgbiomass), still about 70% of the proteins could be released with respect to bead beating as reference. These released proteins were water-soluble while the hydrophobic chlorophyll remained mainly entrapped in cell particles. SEM-analysis of these cell particles showed that PEF only opened the cells, instead of completely fragmenting them into smaller particles. These results indicate that PEF is an energy-efficient cell disruption method for selective release of water-soluble proteins, after the microalgal outer cell wall is removed. Enzymatic pretreatment to degrade the cell walls before PEF treatment was shown to be an efficient method to remove the cell wall.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6046-6053
Number of pages8
JournalACS sustainable chemistry & engineering
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Microalgae
  • Mild cell disruption
  • Multiproduct biorefinery
  • Selective release


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