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Physiological and Biochemical Response of the Photosynthetic Apparatus of Two Marine Diatoms to Fe Stress.

  • R. M. L. McKay
  • R. J. Geider
  • J. LaRoche
Publication Date
Jun 01, 1997
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Flavodoxin is a small electron-transfer protein capable of replacing ferredoxin during periods of Fe deficiency. When evaluating the suitability of flavodoxin as a diagnostic indicator for Fe limitation of phytoplankton growth, we examined its expression in two marine diatoms we cultured using trace-metal-buffered medium. Thalassio-sira weissflogii and Phaeodactylum tricornutum were cultured in ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid-buffered Sargasso Sea water containing from 10 to 1000 nM added Fe. Trace-metal-buffered cultures of each diatom maintained high growth rates across the entire range of Fe additions. Similarly, declines in chlorophyll/cell and in the ratio of photosystem II variable-to-maximum fluorescence were negligible (P. tricornutum) to moderate (T. weissflogii; 54% decline in chlorophyll/cell and 22% decrease in variable-to-maximum fluorescence). Moreover, only minor variations in photosynthetic parameters were observed across the range of additions. In contrast, flavodoxin was expressed to high levels in low-Fe cultures. Despite the inverse relationship between flavodoxin expression and Fe content of the medium, its expression was seemingly independent of any of the indicators of cell physiology that were assayed. It appears that flavodoxin is expressed as an early-stage response to Fe stress and that its accumulation need not be intimately connected to limitations imposed by Fe on the growth rate of these diatoms.

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