Phosphorus Enhances Photosynthetic Storage Starch Production in a Green Microalga (Chlorophyta) Tetraselmis subcordiformis in Nitrogen Starvation Conditions

Microalgae are potential starch producers as alternatives to agricultural crops. This study disclosed the effects and mechanism of phosphorus availability exerted on storage starch production in a starch-producing microalga Tetraselmis subcordiformis in nitrogen starvation conditions. Excessive phosphorus supply facilitated starch production, which differed from the conventional cognition that phosphorus would inhibit transitory starch biosynthesis in plants. Phosphorus enhanced energy utilization efficiency for biomass and storage starch production. ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase (AGPase), conventionally known to be critical for starch biosynthesis, was negatively correlated to storage starch biosynthesis. Excessive phosphorus supply maintained large cell volumes, enhanced activities of starch phosphorylases (SPs) along with branching enzymes and isoamylases, and increased phosphoenolpyruvate and trehalose-6-phosphate levels to alleviate the inhibition of high phosphate availability to AGPase, all of which improved starch production. This work highlighted the importance of phosphorus in the production of microalgal starch and provided further evidence for the SP-based storage starch biosynthesis pathway.