Calcification acidifies the microenvironment of a benthic foraminifer (Ammonia sp.)

Calcareous foraminifera are well known for their CaCO3 shells. Yet, CaCO3 precipitation acidifies the calcifying fluid. Calcification without pH regulation would therefore rapidly create a negative feedback for CaCO3 precipitation. In unicellular organisms, like foraminifera, an effective mechanism to counteract this acidification could be the externalization of H+ from the site of calcification. In this study we show that a benthic symbiont-free foraminifer Ammonia sp. actively decreases pH within its extracellular microenvironment only while precipitating calcite. During chamber formation events the strongest pH decreases occurred in the vicinity of a newly forming chamber (range of gradient ~ 100 μm) with a recorded minimum of 6.31 (< 10 μm from the shell) and a maximum duration of 7 h. The acidification was actively regulated by the foraminifera and correlated with shell diameters, indicating that the amount of protons removed during calcification is directly related to the volume of calcite precipitated. The here presented findings imply that H+ expulsion as a result of calcification may be a wider strategy for maintaining pH homeostasis in unicellular calcifying organisms.

Glas M. S., Langer G. & Keul N., 2012. Calcification acidifies the microenvironment of a benthic foraminifer (Ammonia sp.). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 424-425: 53-58. Article (subscription required).

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