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Biotechnol Adv. 2003 Jul;21(4):273-94.

Heterotrophic production of eicosapentaenoic acid by microalgae.

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  • 1Department of Botany, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, PR China.


Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid that plays an important role in the regulation of biological functions and prevention and treatment of a number of human diseases such as heart and inflammatory diseases. As fish oil fails to meet the increasing demand for purified EPA, alternative sources are being sought. Microalgae contain large quantities of high-quality EPA and they are considered a potential source of this important fatty acid. Some microalgae can be grown heterotrophically on cheap organic substrate without light. This mode of cultivation can be well controlled and provides the possibility to maximize EPA production on a large scale. Numerous strategies have been investigated for commercial production of EPA by microalgae. These include screening of high EPA-yielding microalgal strains, improvement of strains by genetic manipulation, optimization of culture conditions, and development of efficient cultivation systems. This paper reviews recent advances in heterotrophic production of EPA by microalgae with an emphasis on the use of diatoms as producing organisms.

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