Fatty acid profiling of tropical marine macroalgae: An analysis from chemotaxonomic and nutritional perspectives

Puja Kumari, A. J. Bijo, Vaibhav A. Mantri, C. R.K. Reddy*, Bhavanath Jha

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Citations (Scopus)


The lipid and fatty acid (FA) compositions for 100 marine macroalgae were determined and discussed from the context of chemotaxonomic and nutritional perspectives. In general, the lipid contents in macroalgae were low (2.3-20 mg/g fr. wt.) but with substantially high amounts of nutritionally important polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) such as LA, ALA, STA, AA, EPA and DHA, that ranged from 10% to 70% of TFAs. More than 90% of the species showed nutritionally beneficial n6/n3 ratio (0.1:1-3.6:1) (p ≤ 0.001). A closer look at the FA data revealed characteristic chemotaxonomic features with C18 PUFAs (LA, ALA and STA) being higher in Chlorophyta, C20 PUFAs (AA and EPA) in Rhodophyta while Phaeophyta depicted evenly distribution of C18 and C20 PUFAs. The ability of macroalgae to produce long-chain PUFAs could be attributed to the coupling of chloroplastic FA desaturase enzyme system from a photosynthetic endosymbiont to the FA desaturase/elongase enzyme system of a non-photosynthetic eukaryotic protist host. Further, the principal component analysis segregated the three macroalgal groups with a marked distinction of different genera, families and orders, Hierarchical cluster analyses substantiated the phylogenetic relationships of all orders investigated except for those red algal taxa belonging to Gigartinales, Ceramiales, Halymeniales and Rhodymeniales for which increased sampling effort is required to infer a conclusion. Also, the groups deduced from FA compositions were congruent with the clades inferred from nuclear and plastid genome sequences. This study further indicates that FA signatures could be employed as a valid chemotaxonomic tool to differentiate macroalgae at higher taxonomic levels such as family and orders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-56
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Chief Conservator of Forest and Wildlife, Jamnagar and Ministry of Forest and Environment, Govt. of Gujarat, for permitting to collect some algal samples investigated in this study from Kalubhar Island (off-Vadinar Coast), Marine National Park, Gujarat. We also thank Head, Analytical Sciences, CSIR–CSMCRI for permitting us to use the GC facility and Dr. S.K. Mandal for sharing the data of physico-chemical parameters for some collection spots in this study. The first author thanks CSIR for the award of senior research fellowship (SRF).


  • Chemotaxonomy
  • Endosymbiosis
  • Fatty acids
  • Lipids
  • Macroalgae
  • n6/n3 Ratio
  • PUFAs


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