1. The effect of nitrate reduction and assimilation on the CO2/O2 quotient of gas exchange has been used as an index of the relative rates of carbon and nitrogen assimilation in Chlorella pyrenoidosa. Changes in over-all metabolism induced by starvation, high light intensity, and nitrogen deficiency have been studied in comparison with the metabolism of cells growing at light-limiting intensities.
2. Starvation, which results in depletion of carbohydrate reserves, gives rise to a high CO2/O2 quotient (∼0.9) during photosynthesis and, therefore, a high C/N assimilation ratio. Starved cells apparently restore their normal C/N ratio before becoming growing cells.
3. Under photosynthesis-saturating light intensities cells show the high CO2/O2 quotient (0.9) indicative of a high C/N assimilation ratio. Return to low light intensities is followed by the abnormally low CO2/O2 quotient (∼0.4) of a low C/N assimilation ratio. High light intensity apparently gives rise to a condition of a limiting rate of nitrogen assimilation and to an overflow metabolism analogous to that found in other microorganisms.
4. Nitrogen deficiency leads to a completely carbohydrate metabolism in short time experiments and makes still more pronounced the effects characteristic of high light intensity alone.
5. Considerations of nutritional economy sustain the experimental evidence in establishing the metabolism of cells growing under light-limiting intensities as the normal or reference metabolic condition in Chlorella.