Algae have multiple similarities with fungi, with both belonging to the Thallophyte, a polyphyletic group of non-mobile organisms grouped together on the basis of similar characteristics, but not sharing a common ancestor. The main difference between algae and fungi is noted in their metabolism. In fact, although algae have chlorophyll-bearing thalloids and are autotrophic organisms, fungi lack chlorophyll and are heterotrophic, not able to synthesize their own nutrients. However, our studies have shown that the extremophilic microalga Galderia sulphuraria (GS) can also grow very well in heterotrophic conditions like fungi. This study was carried out using several approaches such as scanning electron microscope (SEM), gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS), and infrared spectrophotometry (ATR-FTIR). Results showed that the GS, strain ACUF 064, cultured in autotrophic (AGS) and heterotrophic (HGS) conditions, produced different biomolecules. In particular, when grown in HGS, the algae (i) was 30% larger, with an increase in carbon mass that was 20% greater than AGS; (ii) produced higher quantities of stearic acid, oleic acid, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), and ergosterol; (iii) produced lower quantities of fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs) such as methyl palmytate, and methyl linoleate, saturated fatty acids (SFAs), and poyliunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). ATR-FTIR and principal component analysis (PCA) statistical analysis confirmed that the macromolecular content of HGS was significantly different from AGS. The ability to produce different macromolecules by changing the trophic conditions may represent an interesting strategy to induce microalgae to produce different biomolecules that can find applications in several fields such as food, feed, nutraceutical, or energy production.
Chemistry and Pharmacology