Diverse biosynthetic pathways and protective functions against environmental stress of antioxidants in microalgae

Shun Tamaki, Keiichi Mochida, Kengo Suzuki

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Eukaryotic microalgae have been classified into several biological divisions and have evolutionarily acquired diverse morphologies, metabolisms, and life cycles. They are naturally exposed to environmental stresses that cause oxidative damage due to reactive oxygen species accumulation. To cope with environmental stresses, microalgae contain various antioxidants, including carotenoids, ascorbate (AsA), and glutathione (GSH). Carotenoids are hydrophobic pigments required for light harvesting, photoprotection, and phototaxis. AsA constitutes the AsA-GSH cycle together with GSH and is responsible for photooxidative stress defense. GSH contributes not only to ROS scavenging, but also to heavy metal detoxification and thiol-based redox regulation. The evolutionary diversity of microalgae influences the composition and biosynthetic pathways of these antioxidants. For example, α-carotene and its derivatives are specific to Chlorophyta, whereas diadinoxanthin and fucoxanthin are found in Heterokontophyta, Haptophyta, and Dinophyta. It has been suggested that AsA is biosynthesized via the plant pathway in Chlorophyta and Rhodophyta and via the Euglena pathway in Euglenophyta, Heterokontophyta, and Haptophyta. The GSH biosynthetic pathway is conserved in all biological kingdoms; however, Euglenophyta are able to synthesize an additional thiol antioxidant, trypanothione, using GSH as the substrate. In the present study, we reviewed and discussed the diversity of microalgal antioxidants, including recent findings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1250
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Antioxidant
  • Ascorbate
  • Carotenoid
  • Diversity
  • Environmental stress
  • Glutathione
  • Microalgae
  • Reactive oxygen species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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