Physiological responses of a model marine diatom to fast pH changes: special implications of coastal water acidification

Diatoms and other phytoplankton in coastal waters experience rapid pH changes in milieu due to high biological activities and/or upwelled CO2-rich waters. While CO2 concentrating mechanisms (CCMs) are employed by all diatoms tested to counter low CO2 availability in seawater, little is known how this mechanism responds to fast pH changes. In the present study, the model diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana was acclimated for 20 generations to low pH (7.81) at an elevated CO2 of 1000 μatm (HC) or to high pH (8.18) at ambient CO2 levels of 390 μatm (LC), then its physiological characteristics were investigated as cells were shifted from HC to LC or vice versa. The maximal electron transport rate (ETRmax) in the HC-acclimated cells was immediately reduced by decreased CO2 availability, showing much lower values compared to that of the LC-acclimated cells. However, the cells showed a high capacity to regain their photochemical performance regardless of the growth CO2 levels, with their ETRmax values recovering to initial levels in about 100 min. This result indicates that this diatom might modulate its CCMs quickly to maintain a steady state supply of CO2, which is required for sustaining photosynthesis. In addition, active uptake of CO2 could play a fundamental role during the induction of CCMs under CO2 limitation, since the cells maintained high ETR even when both intracellular and periplasmic carbonic anhydrases were inhibited. It is concluded that efficient regulation of the CCM is one of the key strategies for diatoms to survive in fast changing pH environment, e.g. for the tested species, which is a dominant species in coastal waters where highly fluctuating pH is observed.

Wu Y., Beardall J. & Gao K., 2015. Physiological responses of a model marine diatom to fast pH changes: special implications of coastal water acidification. PLoS ONE 10(10):e0141163. Article.

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