Ecophisiology in Trichodesmium under global change

Trichodesmium’s dominant role in carbon and nitrogen cycling has prompted investigations examining the effects of rising sea surface temperatures and elevated atmospheric pCO2 (leading to ocean acidification) on the growth and abundance of this organism. We examined combined effects of elevated pCO2 , changes in light and nutrients on the physiology and gene expression of key genes in Trichodesmium. Genes that participate in nitrogen metabolism, Ci fixation, and photosynthesis were most affected by changes in pCO2, temperature and the time within the diurnal period. High pCO2 shifted transcript patterns of all genes, resulting in a more synchronized diel expression. Concurrently, we found no significant changes in the protein pools or in total cellular allocations of carbon and nitrogen (i.e. C : N ratio remained stable). Moreover, increased temperatures and high pCO2 resulted in higher C : P ratios. The plasticity in phosphorous stoichiometry combined with higher enzymatic efficiencies lead to higher growth rates. We demonstrate that shifted cellular resource and energy allocation among those components will enable Trichodesmium grown at elevated temperatures and pCO2 to extend its niche in the future ocean, through both tolerance of a broader temperature range and higher P plasticity.

Programmed cell death

(PCD) is an irreversible, genetically controlled form of cell suicide that is essential to promote and maintain genetic stability and is critical for the regulation of cellular and tissue homeostasis in metazoans. PCD has been observed in a variety of unicellular organisms including prokaryotic bloom-forming cyanobacteria, chlorophytes, dinoflagellates, diatoms, and coccolithophores. Trichodesmium also displays autocatalytic PCD in response to stressors such as oxidation, high irradiance, and Fe-depletion. In the oceans Trichodesmium forms extensive blooms in nutrient-poor tropical and subtropical regions. These massive blooms generally collapse several days after forming, but the cellular mechanism responsible along with the magnitude of associated C and N export, are as yet unknown. Our work from laboratory simulations demonstrate that extremely rapid development and abrupt, PCD-induced demise (within 2-3 d) of Trichodesmium blooms lead to greatly elevated excretions of transparent exopolymers and a massive downward pulse of particulate organic matter. Our results mechanistically link autocatalytic PCD and bloom collapse to quantitative C and N export fluxes and suggest that PCD may impact biological pump efficiency in the oceans.