Highest plasticity of carbon‐concentrating mechanisms in earliest evolved phytoplankton

Phytoplankton photosynthesis strongly relies on the operation of carbon‐concentrating mechanisms (CCMs) to accumulate CO2 around their carboxylating enzyme ribulose‐1,5‐bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RuBisCO). Earlier evolved phytoplankton groups were shown to exhibit higher CCM activities to compensate for their RuBisCO with low CO2 specificities. Here, we tested whether earlier evolved phytoplankton groups also exhibit a higher CCM plasticity. To this end, we collected data from literature and applied a Bayesian linear meta‐analytic model. Our results show that with elevated pCO2, photosynthetic CO2 affinities decreased strongest and most consistent for the earlier evolved groups, i.e., cyanobacteria and dinoflagellates, while CO2‐dependent changes in affinities for haptophytes and diatoms were smaller and less consistent. In addition, responses of maximum photosynthetic rates toward elevated pCO2 were generally small and inconsistent across species. Our results demonstrate that phytoplankton groups with an earlier origin possess a high CCM plasticity, whereas more recently evolved groups do not, which likely results from evolved differences in the CO2 specificity of RuBisCO.

Van de Waal D. B., Brandenburg K. M., Keuskamp J., Trimborn S., Rokitta S., Kranz S. A. & Rost B., 2019. Highest plasticity of carbon‐concentrating mechanisms in earliest evolved phytoplankton. Limnology and Oceanography 4 (2): 37-43. Article (subscription required).

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