Reduced calcification decreases photoprotective capability in the coccolithophorid Emiliania huxleyi

Intracellular calcification of coccolithophores generate CO2 and consumes additional energy for acquisition of calcium and bicarbonate ions, therefore, it may correlate with photoprotective processes by influencing the energetics. To address this hypothesis, a calcifying Emiliania huxleyi strain (CS-369) was grown semi-continuously at reduced (0.1 mM, LCa) and ambient Ca2+ concentrations (10 mM, HCa) for 150 days (>200 generations). The HCa-grown cells had higher photosynthetic and calcification rates and higher contents of chl a and carotenoids compared to the naked (bearing no coccoliths) LCa-grown cells. When exposed to stress-full levels of PAR, LCa-grown cells displayed lower photochemical yield and less efficient non-photochemical quenching (NPQ). When the LCa or HCa-grown cells were inversely shifted to their counterpart medium, LCa to HCa transfer increased photosynthetic carbon fixation (P), calcification rate (C), C/P ratio, NPQ and pigments contents, while those shifted from HCa to LCa exhibited the opposite performance. Increased NPQ, carotenoids and quantum yield clearly linked with increased or sustained calcification in E. huxleyi. The calcification must have played a role in dissipating excessive energy or as an additional drainage of electrons absorbed by the photosynthetic antennae. This phenomenon was further supported by testing two noncalcifying strains, which showed insignificant changes photosynthetic carbon fixation and NPQ when transferred to LCa condition.

Xu K. & Gao K., in press. Reduced calcification decreases photoprotective capability in the coccolithophorid Emiliania huxleyi. Plant and Cell Physiology. doi: 10.1093/pcp/pcs066. Article (subscription required).


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