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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Morphological and cellular organization of green microalgae to cope with cold stress in subarctic environment

Gonzalez-Hourcade, Maria; Fernando, Dinesh; Gentili, Francesco G.


Microalgae are one of the most widely dispersed living organisms on Earth and can be found even in extreme environments. Especially in such habitats, the microalgal cell wall plays an essential role as it is the first barrier in continuous contact with the surrounding and changing environment. In cold conditions microalgae can show changes in their morphology, also known as phenotypic plasticity which is the ability of an organism to show different phenotypes when exposed to different environmental conditions. In addition, presence or absence of algaenan is thought to be responsible for increase/decrease permeability and stiffness of the cell wall. The aim of this work was to evaluate and compare how microalgae cells can modify their cell wall components and cellular morphology under low-temperature conditions (5 degrees C) and differ during the exponential and stationary phases. Four microalgae species were studied: Coelastrella sp. 3-4, Chlorella vulgaris sp. 13-1, Haematococcus pluvialis, and Scenedesmus sp. B2-2, which were isolated from subarctic locations. Using a histochemical approach in conjunction with light microscopy, cell features such as size, organization and cell wall ornamentation were evaluated. Staining procedures showed changes in biochemical components such as pectins and presence or absence of exopolysaccharides and lipids. Results showed that Coelastrella cultures did not grow under low-temperature conditions. However, Chlorella vulgaris, Haematococcus pluvialis and Scenedesmus species demonstrated a slower growth rate, bigger and rounded cell-shape during cold condition. Furthermore, the latter microalgal strain also showed modification in algaenan presence as one of the main components in cell wall architecture, which can be related to the permeability of cell wall. Changes in other features such as cell organization and cell wall ornamentation were investigated.


Algaenan; Cell wall; Cold conditions; Histochemistry; Microalgae; Microscopy

Published in

Algal Research
2023, Volume: 75, article number: 103254
Publisher: ELSEVIER