University Of Tasmania

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The biotechnological potential of thraustochytrids

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 11:35 authored by Lewis, TE, Peter NicholsPeter Nichols, Thomas McMeekinThomas McMeekin
Thraustochytrids are common marine microheterotrophs, taxonomically aligned with heterokont algae. Recent studies have shown that some thraustochytrid strains can be cultured to produce high biomass, containing substantial amounts of lipid rich in polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). It is also evident that cell yield and PUFA production by some thraustochytrid strains can be varied by manipulation of physical and chemical parameters of the culture. At present, fish oils and cultured phototrophic microalgae are the main commercial sources of PUFA. The possible decline of commercial fish stocks and the relatively complex technology required to commercially produce microalgae have prompted research into possible alternative sources of PUFA. The culture of thraustochytrids and other PUFA-producing microheterotrophs is seen as one such alternative. Indeed, several thraustochytrid-based products are already on the market, and research into further applications is continuing. Many fish and microalgal oils currently available have relatively complex PUFA profiles, increasing the cost of preparation of high-purity PUFA oils. In contrast, some of the thraustochytrids examined to date have simpler PUFA profiles. If these or other strains can be grown in sufficient quantities and at an appropriate cost, the use of thraustochytrid-derived oils may decrease the high expense currently involved with producing high-purity microbial oils. As more is learned about the health and nutritional benefits of PUFA, demand for PUFA-rich products is expected to increase. Results to date suggest that thraustochytrids could form an important part in the supply of such products.


Publication title

Marine Biotechnology








Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)



Place of publication


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Fisheries - aquaculture not elsewhere classified

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