An algal-bacterial symbiotic system of carbon fixation using formate as a carbon source

Yurui Zheng, Jeffrey J. Czajka, Carly Daiek, Zhichang Yang, Liangliang Sun, Yinjie J. Tang, Yan Liu, Wei Liao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The commercial implementation of algal cultures for efficient capture of CO2 from fossil-derived flue gases is not a reality yet due to several major challenges, particularly low gas-liquid mass transport efficiency along with loss of productivity due to pests. This study has explored an algal-bacterial symbiotic system to utilize formate as a carbon source. The algal-bacterial assemblage, after a 400-day adaptive evolution using the formate medium, has demonstrated a new capability to assimilate both formate and CO2 to promote biomass production. The formate tolerant culture system also addresses CO2 mass transfer limitation under high light conditions. Continuous cultivation of the assemblage on formate led to a carbon capture efficiency of 90 % with a biomass concentration of 0.92 g L−1 and biomass productivity of 0.31 g L−1 day−1, and the system did not require CO2 aeration. In addition, 13C isotope tracing, proteomics, and microbial community analysis reveal a uniquely evolved community for formate utilizations and robust biomass synthesis, in which Chlorella sorokiniana is a dominant phototroph companying with highly diverse bacterial subpopulations. In the presence of formate, evidence has shown that Chlorella is able to form mutualism with formate utilizing bacteria in semi-continuous cultures, leading to a highly effective photomixotrophic metabolism. This study demonstrates a new route of using electrochemical-derived formate to support mutualistic algae-bacteria biorefinery while the formate as an alternative carbon source could repel pests for outdoor algal cultivations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103103
JournalAlgal Research
StatePublished - May 2023


  • Adaptive evolution
  • Carbon capture
  • Chlorella sorokiniana
  • Isotopic tracing
  • Mutualism


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