Response mechanism of harmful algae Phaeocystis globosa to ocean warming and acidification

Graphical abstract

Simultaneous ocean warming and acidification will alter marine ecosystem structure and directly affect marine organisms. The alga Phaeocystis globosa commonly causes harmful algal blooms in coastal areas of eastern China. P. globosa often outcompetes other species due to its heterotypic life cycle, primarily including colonies and various types of solitary cells. However, little is known about the adaptive response of P. globosa to ocean warming and acidification. This study aimed to reveal the global molecular regulatory networks implicated in the response of P. globosa to simultaneous warming and acidification. After exposure to warming and acidification, the phosphatidylinositol (PI) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways of P. globosa were activated to regulate other molecular pathways in the cell, while the light harvesting complex (LHC) genes were downregulated to decrease photosynthesis. Exposure to warming and acidification also altered the intracellular energy flow, with more energy allocated to the TCA cycle rather than to the biosynthesis of fatty acids and hemolytic substances. The upregulation of genes associated with glycosaminoglycan (GAG) degradation prevented the accumulation of polysaccharides, which led to a reduction in colony formation. Finally, the upregulation of the Mre11 and Rad50 genes in response to warming and acidification implied an increase in meiosis, which may be used by P. globosa to increase the number of solitary cells. The increase in genetic diversity through sexual reproduction may be a strategy of P. globosa that supports rapid response to complex environments. Thus, the life cycle of P. globosa underwent a transition from colonies to solitary cells in response to warming and acidification, suggesting that this species may be able to rapidly adapt to future climate changes through life cycle transitions.

Liang D., Xiang H., Jin P. & Xia J., 2023. Response mechanism of harmful algae Phaeocystis globosa to ocean warming and acidification. Environmental Pollution 320: 121008. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2023.121008. Article (subscription required).

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