Chlamydomonas reinhardtii exhibits stress memory in the accumulation of triacylglycerols induced by nitrogen deprivation

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Stress memory is a phenomenon whereby exposure to initial stress event influences a response to subsequent stress exposures. Studying stress memory is important to understand the cellular behavior in dynamic environment, especially nowadays, in times with growing environmental instability. Stress memory has been characterized in vascular plants but its occurrence in nonvascular plant species has been rarely investigated. We hypothesized that stress memory occurs in nonvascular plants in relation to metabolic stress. We sought to test it using accumulation of lipids (triacylglycerols) in model green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii subjected to nitrogen deprivation stress as a model system. Here, we established stress memory protocol on C. reinhardtii cells. Using a blend of microscopy and gas chromatography methods, we showed that the cells exposed to recurrent stress show differential accumulation of triacylglycerols on the quantitative level without qualitative changes in lipid composition, comparing to single stress controls. Overall, our results suggest that metabolic stress memory does occur in nonvascular plant C. reinhardtii and provides a starting point to characterize mechanistic principles of metabolic stress memory. Due to the commercial potential of algae, our findings are relevant for basic science, as well as industrial production of algae-derived compounds.