Thermally coupled dark-anoxia incubation: a platform technology to induce auto-fermentation and thus cell-wall thinning in both nitrogen-replete and nitrogen-deplete Nannochloropsis slurries

Ronald Halim, David R.A. Hill, Eric Hanssen, Paul A. Webley, Gregory J.O. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Nitrogen-deprived Nannochloropsis cells invested their fixed carbon into the accumulation of triacylglycerol and cell wall cellulose (thickness of N-replete cell walls = 27.8 ± 5.8, N-deplete cell walls = 51.0 ± 10.2 nm). In this study, the effect of nitrogen depletion on the ability of the cells to weaken their own cell walls via autolysis was investigated. Autolytic cell wall thinning was achieved in both N-replete and N-deplete biomass by incubating highly concentrated slurries in darkness at 38 °C. The incubation forced cells to anaerobically ferment their intracellular cellulose and resulted in 30–40% reduction in cell wall thickness for both biomass types. This wall depletion weakened the cells and increased the extent of cell rupture by mechanical force (from 42 to 78% for N-replete biomass, from 36 to 62% for N-deplete biomass). Importantly, autolysis did not adversely impact the amino acid content of protein-rich N-replete biomass or the fatty acid content of lipid-rich N-deplete biomass.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121769
Number of pages13
JournalBioresource Technology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell wall thinning
  • Dark anoxia
  • Downstream processing
  • Fermentation
  • Microalgal autolysis

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