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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2003 Feb;60(6):612-23. Epub 2002 Dec 13.

Diatom cultivation and biotechnologically relevant products. Part I: cultivation at various scales.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Biologie Marine, Institut des Substances et des Organismes de la Mer (ISOmer), Universit√© de Nantes, 2 rue de la Houssini√®re, BP 92208, 44322 Nantes cedex 3, France.


Biotechnological applications of diatoms are still in development. Further development at the industrial scale will depend on optimisation of the culture process with the aim of reducing costs. Because of the photoautotrophic status of the majority of diatoms, microalgal cultures suffer from the limitation of light diffusion, which requires the development of suitable photobioreactors. Thus, genetically engineered microalgae that may be cultivated in heterotrophic conditions present a new opportunity. Other limiting factors, such as nutrients (phosphate, nitrogen, silicon), pH, temperature, bioturbation and many more must be taken into account. Most of the time, metabolic stress conditions lead to an overproduction of the products of interest, with a decrease in biomass production as a consequence. Outdoor cultures in open ponds are usually devoted to aquaculture for the feeding of shrimps and bivalve molluscs (commercial production), while closed axenic indoor/outdoor photobioreactors are used for biotechnological compounds of homogeneous composition (still at the laboratory scale). In addition to the optimum culture conditions that have to be taken into account for photobioreactor design, the localisation of produced metabolites (intra- or extracellular) may also be taken into account when choosing the design. Microalgal cell immobilisation may be a suitable technique for application to benthic diatoms, which are usually sensitive to bioturbation and/or metabolites which may be overexpressed.

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