Neutral lipid production in Dunaliella salina during osmotic stress and adaptation

Shuo Yao, Jingquan Lu, Zsuzsa Sárossy, Claus Baggesen, Anders Brandt, Yingfeng An

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The salt-tolerant green microalga Dunaliella salina can survive both hyper- and hypo-osmotic shock. Upon osmotic shock, the cells transiently and rapidly decreased or increased in size within minutes and slowly over hours acquired their original cell size and volume. Cell size distribution differs significantly in the cultures grown in the salinity range from 1.5 to 15 % NaCl. By using Nile Red fluorescence to detect neutral lipids, it became clear that only hyper-osmotic shock on cells induced transient neutral lipid appearance in D. salina, while those transferred from 9 to 15 % NaCl stimulated the most neutral lipid accumulation. These cells grew well in 9 % NaCl, but they cannot recover a shift to 15 % NaCl and cell division is accordingly slowed down. The transient appearance of neutral lipid could be dependent on the inhibition of cell division experiencing the NaCl shift. Moreover, the effect of nutrient limitation slows down cell division and photosynthesis as a secondary result, which triggers the cells to accumulate neutral storage lipids when they entered the stationary phase, which is seen in all the batch cultures of D. salina grown in the salinity range of 3–15 %. The changes in salt concentration did not significantly influence the overall fatty acid composition in D. salina cells. Although there shows both increased amounts of total lipids and neutral lipids in the cells grown in salinity higher than 9 % NaCl, lipid productivity is however compromised by the slower cell growth rate and lower cell density under this condition.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Phycology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)2167–2175
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Dunaliella salina
  • Neutral lipids
  • Nutrient starvation
  • Osmotic stress
  • Salt adaptation


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