Chlorella vulgaris

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Chlorella vulgaris
Chlorella vulgaris on microscope view
Chlorella vulgaris on microscope view
Scientific classification edit
(unranked): Viridiplantae
Division: Chlorophyta
Class: Trebouxiophyceae
Order: Chlorellales
Family: Chlorellaceae
Genus: Chlorella
C. vulgaris
Binomial name
Chlorella vulgaris
  • Chlorella vulgaris var. viridis Chodat
  • Chlorella ellipsoidea Gerneck
Chlorella vulgaris in endosymbiosis with the ciliate Ophrydium versatile [2]

Chlorella vulgaris is a species of green microalga in the division Chlorophyta. It is mainly used as a dietary supplement or protein-rich food additive in Japan.


C. vulgaris is a green eukaryotic microalga in the genus Chlorella, which has been present on earth since the Precambrian period.[3] This unicellular alga was discovered in 1890 by Martinus Willem Beijerinck as the first microalga with a well-defined nucleus.[4] At the beginning of the 1990s, German scientists noticed the high protein content of C. vulgaris and began to consider it as a new food source. Japan is currently the largest consumer of Chlorella,[3][5] both for nutritional and therapeutic purposes.[6]


Chlorella vulgaris occurs as a symbiont in tissues of the freshwater flatworms Dalyellia viridis and Typhloplana viridata.[7]


The world annual production of the various species of Chlorella was 2000 tonnes (dry weight) in 2009, with the main producers being Germany, Japan and Taiwan.[3] C. vulgaris is a candidate for commercial production due to its high resistance against adverse conditions and invading organisms. In addition, the production of the various organic macromolecules of interest (proteins, lipids, starch) differ depending on the technique used to create biomass and can be therefore targeted.[3] Under more hostile conditions, the biomass decreases, but lipids and starch contents increase.[8] Under nutrient and light-replete conditions, protein content increases along with the biomass.[9] Different growth techniques have been developed. Different modes of growth (autotrophic, heterotrophic, and mixotrophic) has been investigated for Chlorella vulagris; autotrophic growth is the most researched and favourable as it does not require provision of costly organic carbon and relies on inorganic carbon sources (CO2, carbonates) and light for photosynthesis.[10]

Chlorella sp. cultivated in digested and membrane-pretreated swine manure is capable of improving the growth medium performance of microalgae cultivations in terms of final biomass productivity, showing that algal growth depends on the turbidity of liquid digestate streams rather than on their nutrient availability.[11]



Chlorella vulgaris has been the microalgae of choice for several bioremediation processes. Owing to its ability to remove a variety of pollutants such as inorganic nutrients (nitrate, nitrite, phosphate and ammonium), fertilizers, detergents, heavy metals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and other emerging pollutants from wastewater and effluents, carbon dioxide and other gaseous pollutants from flue gases, besides having high growth rates and simple cultivation requirements, Chlorella vulagris has emerged as a potential microorganism in bioremediation studies for mitigation of environmental pollution.[12]


C. vulgaris is seen as a promising source of bioenergy. It may be a good alternative to biofuel crops, like soybean, corn or rapeseed, as it is more productive and does not compete with food production.[13] It can produce large amount of lipids, up to 20 times more than crops[14] that have a suitable profile for biodiesel production.[15] This microalgae also contains high amounts of starch, good for the production of bioethanol.[3] However, microalgal biofuels are far from competitive with fossil fuels, given their high production costs and controversial sustainability.[3][16]

Food ingredient and dietary supplement[edit]

The protein content of C. vulgaris varies from 42 to 58% of its biomass dry weight.[17][18][19][20] These proteins are considered as having a good nutritional quality compared to the standard profile for human nutrition of the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization, as the algae synthesizes amino acids.[3] The algae also contains lipids (5–40% of the dry mass),[6][17] carbohydrates (12–55% dry weight),[21][22] and pigments including chlorophyll, reaching 1–2 % of the dry weight.[23][24]

Containing dietary minerals and vitamins,[3] C. vulgaris is marketed as a dietary supplement, food additive,[25][26] food colorant or manufacturing emulsion.[27] It is not widely incorporated in food products due to its dark green color and smell similar to that of fish.[28] As a dietary supplement, it may be sold as capsules, extracts, tablets or powder.[29][30] Vitamin B12, specifically in the form of methylcobalamin, has been identified in Chlorella vulgaris.[31]

In popular culture[edit]

In Alan Dean Foster's short story, "Village of the Chosen", published in The Best of Omni in 1983, a pair of scientists engineer a strain of Chlorella to be in symbiosis with humans, so humans can become photosynthetic.


  1. ^ "Chlorella vulgaris". NCBI taxonomy. Bethesda, MD: National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved 5 December 2017. Other names: synonym: Chlorella vulgaris var. viridis Chodat includes: Chlorella vulgaris Beijerink IAM C-27 formerly Chlorella ellipsoidea Gerneck IAM C-27
  2. ^ Duval B., Margulis L. (1995). "The microbial community of Ophrydium versatile colonies: endosymbionts, residents, and tenants". Symbiosis. 18: 181–210. PMID 11539474.
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  4. ^ Beijerinck, M. W. (1890). "Culturversuche mit Zoochlorellen, Lichenengonidien und anderen niederen Algen". Bot. Zeitung. 48: 781–785.
  5. ^ Kitada, K., Machmudah, S., Sasaki, M., Goto, M., Nakashima, Y., Kumamoto, S., & Hasegawa, T. (2009). "Supercritical CO2 extraction of pigment components with pharmaceutical importance from Chlorella vulgaris". Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology. 84 (5): 657–661. doi:10.1002/jctb.2096.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ a b Freitas, Hércules Rezende (2017-08-25). "Chlorella vulgaris as a Source of Essential Fatty Acids and Micronutrients: A Brief Commentary". The Open Plant Science Journal. 10 (1). doi:10.2174/1874294701710010092.
  7. ^ Young, J. O. (2001). Keys to the freshwater microturbellarians of Britain and Ireland. Ambleside: Freshwater Biological Association. p. 92.
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  9. ^ Yuvraj; Ambarish Sharan Vidyarthi; Jeeoot Singh (2016). "Enhancement of Chlorella vulgaris cell density: Shake flask and bench-top photobioreactor studies to identify and control limiting factors". Korean Journal of Chemical Engineering. 33 (8): 2396–2405.
  10. ^ Yuvraj; Padmini Padmanabhan (2017). "Technical insight on the requirements for CO2-saturated growth of microalgae in photobioreactors". 3 Biotech. 07.
  11. ^ Ledda, Claudio; Ida, Antonio; Alllemand, Donatella; Mariani, Paola (November 1, 2015). "Production of wild Chlorella sp. cultivated in digested and membrane-pretreated swine manure derived from a full-scale operation plant" (PDF). Algal Research. 12: Abstract, 70. doi:10.1016/j.algal.2015.08.010. ISSN 2211-9264. OCLC 5878756379. Archived (PDF) from the original on August 8, 2021.
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  13. ^ Singh, A., Nigam, P. S., & Murphy, J. D. (2011). "Renewable fuels from algae: An answer to debatable land based fuels". Bioresource Technology. 102 (1): 10–16. doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2010.06.032. PMID 20615690.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ Demirbas, M. F. (2011). "Biofuels from algae for sustainable development". Applied Energy. 88 (10): 3473–3480. doi:10.1016/j.apenergy.2011.01.059.
  15. ^ Wang, K. G., Brown, R. C., Homsy, S., Martinez, L., & Sidhu, S. S. (2013). "Fast pyrolysis of microalgae remnants in a fluidized bed reactor for bio-oil and biochar production". Bioresource Technology. 127: 494–499. doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2012.08.016. PMID 23069615.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ Lavars, Nick (2019-09-19). "Algae-fueled bioreactor soaks up CO2 400x more effectively than trees". New Atlas. Retrieved 2019-10-04.
  17. ^ a b Becker, E. W. (1994). Microalgae: biotechnology and microbiology. Vol. 10. Cambridge University Press.
  18. ^ Morris, H. J., Almarales, A., Carrillo, O., & Bermúdez, R. C. (2008). "Utilisation of Chlorella vulgaris cell biomass for the production of enzymatic protein hydrolysates". Bioresource Technology. 99 (16): 7723–7729. doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2008.01.080. PMID 18359627.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  19. ^ Servaites, J. C., Faeth, J. L., & Sidhu, S. S. (2012). "A dye binding method for measurement of total protein in microalgae". Analytical Biochemistry. 421 (1): 75–80. doi:10.1016/j.ab.2011.10.047. PMID 22138185.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  20. ^ Seyfabadi, J., Ramezanpour, Z., & Khoeyi, Z. A. (2011). "Protein, fatty acid, and pigment content of Chlorella vulgaris under different light regimes". Journal of Applied Phycology. 23 (4): 721–726. doi:10.1007/s10811-010-9569-8. S2CID 31981379.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ Brányiková, I., Maršálková, B., Doucha, J., Brányik, T., Bišová, K., Zachleder, V., & Vítová, M. (2011). "Microalgae—novel highly efficient starch producers". Biotechnology and Bioengineering. 108 (4): 766–776. doi:10.1002/bit.23016. PMID 21404251. S2CID 12940180.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ Choix, F. J., de-Bashan, L. E., & Bashan, Y. (2012). "Enhanced accumulation of starch and total carbohydrates in alginate-immobilized Chlorella spp. induced by Azospirillum brasilense: II. Heterotrophic conditions". Enzyme and Microbial Technology. 51 (5): 300–309. doi:10.1016/j.enzmictec.2012.07.013. PMID 22975128.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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  26. ^ Li, H.-B., Jiang, Y., & Chen, F. (2002). "Isolation and purification of lutein from the microalga Chlorella vulgaris by extraction after saponification". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 50 (5): 1070–1072. doi:10.1021/jf010220b. PMID 11853482.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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