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Concept: Planktology


Diatoms are major contributors to the photosynthetic productivity of marine phytoplankton. In these organisms, fucoxanthin-chlorophyll proteins (FCPs) serve as light-harvesting proteins. We have explored the FCP complexes in Phaeodactylum tricornutum under low light (LL) and high light (HL) conditions. Sub-fractionating the pool of major FCPs yielded different populations of trimeric complexes. Only Lhcf and Lhc-like proteins were found in the trimers. Under LL, the first polypeptide fraction contained six different Lhcfs and was mainly composed of Lhcf10. It was characterised by the highest amount of fucoxanthin (Fx). The second was dominated by Lhcf10, Lhcf5 and Lhcf2, and had a lower Fx/Chl c ratio. Little Fx/Chl c also characterised the most abundant FCP complexes, found in fraction 3, composed mainly of Lhcf5. These FCPs bound Fx molecules with the strongest bathochromic shift. The last two fractions contained FCP complexes that were built mainly of Lhcf4, harbouring more Fx molecules that absorbed at shorter wavelengths. Under HL, the same main polypeptides were retrieved in the different fractions and spectroscopic features were almost identical except for a higher diadinoxanthin content. The total amount of Lhcf5 was reduced under HL, whereas the amount of the last two fractions and thereby Lhcf4 was increased. Lhcf11 was identified in different LL fractions, but not detected in any HL fraction, while two new Lhc-like proteins were only found under HL. This is the first report on different trimeric FCP complexes in pennate diatoms, which differ in polypeptide composition and pigmentation, and are differentially expressed by light.

Concepts: Algae, Spectroscopy, Peptide, Wavelength, Diatom, Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Diatoms, Planktology


Glyphosate is a globally popular herbicide to kill weeds and its wide applications may lead to accumulation in coastal oceans as a source of phosphorus (P) nutrient or growth inhibitor of phytoplankton. We studied the physiological effects of glyphosate on fourteen species representing five major coastal phytoplankton phyla (haptophyta, bacillariophyta, dinoflagellata, raphidophyta, and chlorophyta). Based on growth responses to different concentrations of glyphosate under contrasting dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP) conditions, we found that phytoplankton species could be classified into five groups. Group I (Emiliania huxleyi, Skeletonema costatum, Phaeodactylum tricornutum) could utilize glyphosate as sole P-source to support growth in axenic culture, but in the presence of DIP, they were inhibited by both 36-μM and 360-μM glyphosate. Group II (Karenia mikimotoi, Prorocentrum minimum, Dunaliella tertiolecta, Symbiodinium sp., Heterosigma akashiwo and Alexandrium catenella) could not utilize glyphosate as sole P-source to support growth, and in the presence of DIP growth was not affected by 36-μM but inhibited by 360-μM glyphosate. Glyphosate consistently enhanced growth of Group III (Isochrysis galbana) and inhibited Group IV (Thalassiosira weissflogii, Thalassiosira pseudonana and Chattonella marina) regardless of DIP condition. Group V (Amphidinium carterae) exhibited no measurable response to glyphosate regardless of DIP condition. This grouping is not congruent with the phylogenetic relationships of the phytoplankton species suggesting functional differentiation driven by environmental pressure. We conclude that glyphosate could be used as P-source by some species while is toxic to some other species and yet has no effects on others. The observed differential effects suggest that the continued use of glyphosate and increasing concentration of this herbicide in the coastal waters will likely exert significant impact on coastal marine phytoplankton community structure.

Concepts: Algae, Phylogenetics, Phosphorus, Coccolithophore, Diatom, Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Diatoms, Planktology


Competition is a major force structuring marine planktonic communities. The release of compounds that inhibit competitors, a process known as allelopathy, may play a role in the maintenance of large blooms of the red-tide dinoflagellate Karenia brevis, which produces potent neurotoxins that negatively impact coastal marine ecosystems. K. brevis is variably allelopathic to multiple competitors, typically causing sublethal suppression of growth. We used metabolomic and proteomic analyses to investigate the role of chemically mediated ecological interactions between K. brevis and two diatom competitors, Asterionellopsis glacialis and Thalassiosira pseudonana. The impact of K. brevis allelopathy on competitor physiology was reflected in the metabolomes and expressed proteomes of both diatoms, although the diatom that co-occurs with K. brevis blooms (A. glacialis) exhibited more robust metabolism in response to K. brevis. The observed partial resistance of A. glacialis to allelopathy may be a result of its frequent exposure to K. brevis blooms in the Gulf of Mexico. For the more sensitive diatom, T. pseudonana, which may not have had opportunity to evolve resistance to K. brevis, allelopathy disrupted energy metabolism and impeded cellular protection mechanisms including altered cell membrane components, inhibited osmoregulation, and increased oxidative stress. Allelopathic compounds appear to target multiple physiological pathways in sensitive competitors, demonstrating that chemical cues in the plankton have the potential to alter large-scale ecosystem processes including primary production and nutrient cycling.

Concepts: Metabolism, Oxidative phosphorylation, Proteomics, Metabolomics, Phytoplankton, Diatom, Plankton, Planktology


Interactions between phytoplankton and bacteria play a central role in mediating biogeochemical cycling and food web structure in the ocean. However, deciphering the chemical drivers of these interspecies interactions remains challenging. Here, we report the isolation of 2-heptyl-4-quinolone (HHQ), released by Pseudoalteromonas piscicida, a marine gamma-proteobacteria previously reported to induce phytoplankton mortality through a hitherto unknown algicidal mechanism. HHQ functions as both an antibiotic and a bacterial signaling molecule in cell-cell communication in clinical infection models. Co-culture of the bloom-forming coccolithophore, Emiliania huxleyi with both live P. piscicida and cell-free filtrates caused a significant decrease in algal growth. Investigations of the P. piscicida exometabolome revealed HHQ, at nanomolar concentrations, induced mortality in three strains of E. huxleyi. Mortality of E. huxleyi in response to HHQ occurred slowly, implying static growth rather than a singular loss event (e.g., rapid cell lysis). In contrast, the marine chlorophyte, Dunaliella tertiolecta and diatom, Phaeodactylum tricornutum were unaffected by HHQ exposures. These results suggest that HHQ mediates the type of inter-domain interactions that cause shifts in phytoplankton population dynamics. These chemically mediated interactions, and other like it, ultimately influence large-scale oceanographic processes.

Concepts: Algae, Bacteria, Penicillin, Emiliania huxleyi, Coccolithophore, Diatom, Dimethyl sulfide, Planktology


There is a growing consensus that the ongoing increase in atmospheric CO2 level will lead to a variety of effects on marine phytoplankton and ecosystems. However, the effects of CO2 enrichment on eutrophic coastal waters are still unclear, as are the complex mechanisms coupled to the development of eutrophication. Here, we report the first mesocosm CO2 perturbation study in a eutrophic subtropical bay during summer by investigating the effect of rising CO2 on a model artificial community consisting of well-characterized cultured diatoms (Phaeodactylum tricornutum and Thalassiosira weissflogii) and prymnesiophytes (Emiliania huxleyi and Gephyrocapsa oceanica). These species were inoculated into triplicate 4 m(3) enclosures with equivalent chlorophyll a (Chl-a) under present and higher partial pressures of atmospheric CO2 (pCO2 = 400 and 1000 ppmv). Diatom bloom events were observed in all enclosures, with enhanced organic carbon production and Chl-a concentrations under high CO2 treatments. Relative to the low CO2 treatments, the consumption of the dissolved inorganic nitrogen and uptake ratios of N/P and N/Si increased significantly during the bloom. These observed responses suggest more extensive and complex effects of higher CO2 concentrations on phytoplankton communities in coastal eutrophic environments.

Concepts: Algae, Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Nitrogen, Diatom, Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Diatoms, Planktology


Diel vertical migration (DVM) is a ubiquitous phenomenon in marine and freshwater plankton communities. Most commonly, plankton migrate to surface waters at dusk and return to deeper waters at dawn. Up until recently, it was thought that DVM was triggered by a relative change in visible light intensity. However, evidence has shown that DVM also occurs in the deep sea where no direct and background sunlight penetrates. To identify whether such DVM is associated with latitudinal and seasonal day light variation, one and a half years of recorded acoustic data, a measure of zooplankton abundance and movement, were examined. Acoustic Doppler current profilers, moored at eight different sub-tropical latitudes in the North-Atlantic Ocean, measured in the vertical range of 500-1600 m. DVM was observed to follow day length variation with a change in season and latitude at all depths. DVM followed the rhythm of local sunrise and sunset precisely between 500 and 650 m. It continued below 650 m, where the deepest penetrable irradiance level are <10(-7) times their near-surface values, but plankton shortened their time at depth by up to about 63% at 1600 m. This suggests light was no longer a cue for DVM. This trend stayed consistent both across latitudes and between the different seasons. It is hypothesized that another mechanism, rather than light, viz. a precise biochemical clock could maintain the solar diurnal and seasonal rhythms in deep sea plankton motions. In accordance with this hypothesis, the deepest plankton were consistently the first to migrate upwards.

Concepts: Light, Earth, Ocean, Zooplankton, Plankton, Diel vertical migration, Sunrise equation, Planktology


Fucoxanthin is a natural pigment found in microalgae, especially diatoms and Chrysophyta. Recently, it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and anti-obesityactivity in humans. Phaeodactylum tricornutum is a diatom with high economic potential due to its high content of fucoxanthin and eicosapentaenoic acid. In order to improve fucoxanthin production, physical and chemical mutagenesis could be applied to generate mutants. An accurate and rapid method to assess the fucoxanthin content is a prerequisite for a high-throughput screen of mutants. In this work, the content of fucoxanthin in P. tricornutum was determined using spectrophotometry instead of high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). This spectrophotometric method is easier and faster than liquid chromatography and the standard error was less than 5% when compared to the HPLC results. Also, this method can be applied to other diatoms, with standard errors of 3-14.6%. It provides a high throughput screening method for microalgae strains producing fucoxanthin.

Concepts: Algae, Chromatography, High performance liquid chromatography, High-throughput screening, Diatom, Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Diatoms, Planktology


The fast growing photosynthetic microalgae have been widely used in aquaculture, food, health, and biofuels. Recent findings in the diatom has proposed a pivotal role of NADP-malic enzyme in generation of NADPH as an important supply of reducing power for fatty acid biosynthesis. To test the lipogenic malic enzyme for fatty acid synthesis in green algae, here the malic enzyme gene PtME from the oleaginous diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum was expressed in a representative green microalga Chlorella pyrenoidosa.

Concepts: Algae, Photosynthesis, Metabolism, Phytoplankton, Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Biosynthesis, Chlorella, Planktology


As a model organism for a pleiomorphic marine planktonic primary producer, Phaeodactylum tricornutum has been studied on a molecular level under diverse cultural conditions. But little is known about its morphological, nutritional or transcriptomic responses under grazing stress.

Concepts: DNA, Molecular biology, Metabolism, Diatom, Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Diatoms, Plankton, Planktology


Fucoxanthin and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) provide significant health benefits for human population. Diatom is a potential natural livestock for the combined production of EPA and fucoxanthin. In this study, first, the effects of three important parameters including light intensity, nitrogen concentration and salinity were evaluated for the production of EPA and fucoxanthin in two diatom strains Phaeodactylum tricornutum and Cylindrotheca fusiformis. And then, two steps method based on light intensity were applied to produce EPA and fucoxanthin in large scale. Higher light intensity was first adopted for the high growth rate and lipid content of diatom, and after a period of time, light intensity was lowered to enhance the accumulation of fucoxanthin and EPA. In final, the highest EPA yields were 62.55 and 27.32 mg L-1for P. tricornutum and C. fusiformis, and the fucoxanthin yield reached 8.32 and 6.05 mg L-1, respectively.

Concepts: Time, Light, Eicosapentaenoic acid, Yield, Diatom, Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Diatoms, Planktology