In this paper, we investigated the effects of temperature, oxygen, antioxidants, and corn germ oil on the stability of astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis under different storage conditions, and changes in the composition of astaxanthin esters during storage using high performance liquid chromatography and spectrophotometry. Oxygen and high temperatures （22-25~C） significantly reduced the stability of astaxanthin esters. Corn germ oil and antioxidants （ascorbic acid and vitamin E） failed to protect astaxanthin from oxidation, and actually significantly increased the instability of astaxanthin. A change in the relative composition of astaxanthin esters was observed after 96 weeks of long-term storage. During storage, the relative amounts of free astaxanthin and astaxanthin monoesters declined, while the relative amount of astaxanthin diesters increased. Thus, the ratio of astaxanthin diester to monoester increased, and this ratio could be used to indicate if astaxanthin esters have been properly preserved. If the ratio is greater than 0.2, it suggests that the decrease in astaxanthin content could be higher than 20%. Our results show that storing algal powder from H. pluvialis or other natural astaxanthin products under vacuum and in the dark below 4~C is the most economical and applicable storage method for the large-scale production of astaxanthin from H. pluvialis. This storage method can produce an astaxanthin preservation rate of at least 80% after 96 weeks of storage.
The influence of alkali on astaxanthin and the optimal working wave length for measurement of astaxanthin from Haematocoecus crude extract were investigated, and a spectrophotometric method for precise quantification of the astaxanthin based on the method of Boussiba et al. was established. According to Boussiba＇s method, alkali treatment destroys chlorophyll. However, we found that： 1） carotenoid content declined for about 25% in Haematococcus fresh cysts and up to 30% in dry powder of Haematococcus broken cysts after alkali treatment; and 2） dimethyl sulfoxide （DMSO）-extracted chlorophyll of green Haematococeus bares little absorption at 520-550 nm. Interestingly, a good linear relationship existed between absorbance at 530 nm and astaxanthin content, while an unknown interference at 540-550 nm was detected in our study. Therefore, with 530 nm as working wavelength, the alkali treatment to destroy chlorophyll was not necessary and the influence of chlorophyll, other carotenoids, and the unknown interference could be avoided. The astaxanthin contents of two samples were measured at 492 nm and 530 nm; the measured values at 530 nm were 2.617 g/100 g and 1.811 g/100 g. When compared with the measured values at 492 nm, the measured values at 530 nm decreased by 6.93% and 11.96%, respectively. The measured values at 530 nm are closer to the true astaxanthin contents in the samples. The data show that 530 nm is the most suitable wave length for spectrophotometric determination to the astaxanthin in Haematococcus crude extract.