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Effects of Iron Starvation on the Ultrastructure of the Cyanobacterium Agmenellum quadruplicatum

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Abstract

The effects of iron starvation on the ultrastructure of the unicellular cyanobacterium Agmenellum quadruplicatum were studied by using thin sectioning and transmission electron microscopy. Intracellular polysaccharide began to accumulate at the onset of iron limitation. This was followed by degradation of ribosomes and (later) degradation of the thylakoid membranes, both of which were virtually absent by 200 h. The thylakoids underwent structural modifications and rearrangements before they actually began to break down. Iron starvation did not appear to affect carboxysomes or the extracellular glyocalyx. On the other hand, polyphosphate bodies may have been partially degraded, and an electrontransparent gap eventually appeared between the cell wall and the cytoplasmic membrane. All of these changes were reversed when iron was added back to 200-h starved cultures. The sequence of ultrastructural changes observed during iron starvation clearly differed from those previously reported to occur during nitrogen, phosphorous, or carbon limitation.

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