Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs initiate morphological changes but inhibit carotenoid accumulation in Haematococcus pluvialis

István Bácsi, József Deli, Sándor Gonda, Ilona Mészáros, Gréta Veréb, Dalma Dobronoki, Sándor Alex Nagy, Viktória B-Béres, Gábor Vasas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


The economic role of certain types of cysts is unquestionable, since the production of several valuable biomolecules is connected to the resting stages of algae, including the red ketocarotenoid astaxanthin. It is relatively well known, how adverse environmental conditions induce cyst formation and astaxanthin accumulation. In the contrary, there is very limited information about stressors inhibiting these processes. An undesirable consequence of increasing drug use of the human and veterinary medicine is the appearance of the drugs both in natural and in mains water. Therefore, to study the effects of micro-contaminants, e.g. pharmaceuticals to non-target aquatic organisms is a recent issue both from ecological and economical point of view. In this study, the effects of three non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs: diclofenac, diflunisal and mefenamic acid) on growth, cyst formation and astaxanthin accumulation of the flagellated green alga Haematococcus pluvialis were investigated. All three drugs inhibited growth, inhibition ranged from 29 to 81% on the basis of vegetative cell numbers on the 14th day of the experiments. Higher concentrations of the drugs led to higher proportion of cysts, which exceeded 60% of total cell number to the 14th day in diclofenac and diflunisal treatments. On the contrary, astaxanthin contents of treated cultures were lower with the increasing drug concentration, the pigment was undetectable in the presence of 0.075 and 0.05 mg ml−1 diclofenac. Results of carotenoid and chlorophyll content analysis suggest more specific processes behind the observed phenomena than membrane damage. Furthermore, the different phenomena or different extents of the same phenomena suggest that NSAIDs with diverse chemical structures may have different target points in physiological processes. Our results clearly show that NSAIDs could have much wider effective spectra than expected, long-term effects on microalgae might have unexpected ecological or economical consequences due to continuous exposure to these chemicals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalAlgal Research
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • Astaxanthin
  • Cyst formation
  • Diclofenac
  • Diflunisal
  • Mefenamic-acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science

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