Influence of different degrees of N limitation on photosystem II performance and heterogeneity of Chlorella vulgaris

Giorgos Markou, Ly H.T. Dao, Koenraad Muylaert, John Beardall

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Nitrogen (N) limitation is considered as the most efficient strategy to induce the accumulation of lipids, carbohydrates or other target compounds in microalgal biomass. However, along with biomass biochemical composition, alterations in N limitation affect the photosynthetic apparatus and result in decreased growth. In this study, Chlorella vulgaris was cultivated in semi-continuous mode with different degrees of N limitation and chlorophyll (Chl) fluorescence analyses were used to investigate the effect of N limitation on photosystem II (PSII) performance, in terms of structural and functional heterogeneity. As expected, N limitation resulted in the decrease of quantum yield and calculated OJIP parameters related to PSII performance. N limitation resulted in a significant increase of trapped energy per reaction center (RC) and subsequently to higher dissipation of excess energy. However, despite the negative effect of N limitation on the number of RCs, the electron transport beyond QA as well the capacity of reducing/re-oxidation of plastiquinone were not negatively affected, implying that performance of RCs was not affected by N limitation. Photochemical quenching (qp) increased of as N limitation increased while the curve of non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) was unimodal, i.e. increased up to a level of N limitation and then decreased as N limitation degree increased further. The overall results of the present study suggest that the decrease of PSII performance was due to a reduction of the number of RCs accompanied with higher energy dissipation a probable outcome of the decreased need for reductant by cells due to lower metabolic activity under N limitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-92
Number of pages9
JournalAlgal Research: biology, biomass and biofuels
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017


  • Antenna heterogeneity
  • Chl fluorescence
  • Microalgae
  • N limitation

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