Combined effects of CO2 and light on the N2-fixing cyanobacterium Trichodesmium IMS101: Physiological responses

Recent studies on the diazotrophic cyanobacterium Trichodesmium erythraeum (IMS101) showed that increasing CO2 partial pressure (pCO2) enhances N2 fixation and growth. Significant uncertainties remain as to the degree of the sensitivity to pCO2, its modification by other environmental factors, and underlying processes causing these responses. To address these questions, we examined the responses of Trichodesmium IMS101 grown under a matrix of low and high levels of pCO2 (150 and 900 µatm) and irradiance (50 and 200 µmol photons m–2 s–1). Growth rates as well as cellular carbon and nitrogen contents increased with increasing pCO2 and light levels in the cultures. The pCO2-dependent stimulation in organic carbon and nitrogen production was highest under low light. High pCO2 stimulated rates of N2 fixation and prolonged the duration, while high light affected maximum rates only. Gross photosynthesis increased with light but did not change with pCO2. HCO3 was identified as the predominant carbon source taken up in all treatments. Inorganic carbon uptake increased with light, but only gross CO2 uptake was enhanced under high pCO2. A comparison between carbon fluxes in vivo and those derived from 13C fractionation indicates high internal carbon cycling, especially in the low-pCO2 treatment under high light. Light-dependent oxygen uptake was only detected under low pCO2 combined with high light or when low-light-acclimated cells were exposed to high light, indicating that the Mehler reaction functions also as a photoprotective mechanism in Trichodesmium. Our data confirm the pronounced pCO2 effect on N2 fixation and growth in Trichodesmium and further show a strong modulation of these effects by light intensity. We attribute these responses to changes in the allocation of photosynthetic energy between carbon acquisition and the assimilation of carbon and nitrogen under elevated pCO2. These findings are supported by a complementary study looking at photosynthetic fluorescence parameters of photosystem II, photosynthetic unit stoichiometry (photosystem I:photosystem II), and pool sizes of key proteins in carbon and nitrogen acquisition.

Kranz, S. A., Levitan, O., Richter, K.-U., Pràšil, O., Berman-Frank, I., & Rost, B., 2010. Combined effects of CO2 and light on the N2-fixing cyanobacterium Trichodesmium IMS101: Physiological responses. Plant Physiology 154:334-345. Article (subscription required).

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