Sterol profiles of microalgae and their change with environmental conditions are of great interest in ecological food web research and taxonomic studies alike. Here, we investigated effects of light intensity and phosphorus supply on the sterol content of phytoplankton and assessed potential interactive effects of these important environmental factors on the sterol composition of algae. We identified sterol contents of four common phytoplankton genera, Scenedesmus, Chlamydomonas, Cryptomonas and Cyclotella, and analysed the change in sterol content with varying light intensities in both a high-phosphorus and a low-phosphorus approach. Sterol contents increased significantly with increasing light in three out of four species. Phosphorus-limitation reversed the change of sterol content with light intensity, i.e., sterol content decreased with increasing light at low phosphorus supply. Generally sterol contents were lower in low-phosphorus cultures. In conclusion, both light and phosphorus conditions strongly affect the sterol composition of algae and hence should be considered in ecological and taxonomic studies investigating the biochemical composition of algae. Data suggest a possible sterol limitation of growth and reproduction of herbivorous crustacean zooplankton during summer when high light intensities and low phosphorus supply decrease sterol contents of algae.
Piepho, M., Martin-Creuzburg, D., & Wacker, A. (2010). Simultaneous effects of light intensity and phosphorus supply on the sterol content of phytoplankton. PLoS ONE, 5(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0015828