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J Gen Physiol. Nov 20, 1942; 26(2): 219–240.
PMCID: PMC2142062

FERMENTATIVE AND PHOTOCHEMICAL PRODUCTION OF HYDROGEN IN ALGAE

Abstract

1.. After 2 hours of fermentation in nitrogen the metabolism of those algae which were found capable of photoreduction with hydrogen changes in such a way that molecular hydrogen is released from the cell in addition to carbon dioxide. 2. The amount of hydrogen formed anaerobically in the dark depends on the amount of some unknown reserve substance in the cell. More hydrogen is formed in presence of added glucose, but no proportionality has been found between the amount of substrate added and that of hydrogen formed. This is probably due to the fact that two types of fermentation reactions exist, with little or no connection between them. Whereas mainly unknown organic acids are formed during the autofermentation, the addition of glucose causes a considerable increase in the production of lactic acid. 3. Algae which have been fermenting for several hours in the dark produce upon illumination free hydrogen at several times the rate observed in the dark, provided carbon dioxide is absent. 4. Certain concentrations of dinitrophenol strongly inhibit the evolution of hydrogen in the dark. Fermentation then continues mainly as a reaction leading to lactic acid. In such poisoned algae the photochemical liberation of hydrogen still continues. 5. If the algae are poisoned with dinitrophenol the presence of carbon dioxide will not interfere with the photochemical evolution of hydrogen. 6. The amount of hydrogen released in this new photochemical reaction depends on the presence of an unknown hydrogen donor in the cell; it can be increased by the addition of glucose but not in proportion to the amount added. 7. The results obtained allow for a more correct explanation of the anaerobic induction period previously described for Scenedesmus and similar algae. The possibility of a photochemical evolution of hydrogen had not been taken into account in the earlier experiments. 8. The origin of the hydrogen released under the influence of light is discussed.

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