Chlorella zofingiensis as an Alternative Microalgal Producer of Astaxanthin: Biology and Industrial Potential
Astaxanthin (3,3′-dihydroxy-β,β-carotene-4,4′-dione), a high-value ketocarotenoid with a broad range of applications in food, feed, nutraceutical, and pharmaceutical industries, has been gaining great attention from science and the public in recent years. The green microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis and Chlorella zofingiensis represent the most promising producers of natural astaxanthin. Although H. pluvialis possesses the highest intracellular astaxanthin content and is now believed to be a good producer of astaxanthin, it has intrinsic shortcomings such as slow growth rate, low biomass yield, and a high light requirement. In contrast, C. zofingiensis grows fast phototrophically, heterotrophically and mixtrophically, is easy to be cultured and scaled up both indoors and outdoors, and can achieve ultrahigh cell densities. These robust biotechnological traits provide C. zofingiensis with high potential to be a better organism than H. pluvialis for mass astaxanthin production. This review aims to provide an overview of the biology and industrial potential of C. zofingiensis as an alternative astaxanthin producer. The path forward for further expansion of the astaxanthin production from C. zofingiensis with respect to both challenges and opportunities is also discussed.