Springer Nature is making Coronavirus research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Products of photosynthesis by marine phytoplankton: the effect of environmental factors on the relative rates of protein synthesis

  • 350 Accesses

  • 113 Citations


A method is presented by which the gross pattern of photosynthetic carbon-dioxide fixation in marine phytoplankton can be determined. It depends on differential solvent extraction yielding an ethanol-soluble, a hot TCA-soluble (polysaccharide) and a residue (protein) fraction. Using this fractionation technique, the effects of various environmental factors on the pattern of photosynthesis by the marine diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum (Bohlin) have been investigated. Low light intensities and increasing degrees of nitrogen limitation in a chemostat increase markedly the relative rates of protein synthesis. Growth of the alga at lower temperatures also increases the proportion of carbon incorporated into the protein fraction. This increased protein syntheses is generally at the expense of the polysaccharide fraction. Preliminary experiments have established the suitability of this fractionation method for natural populations of phytoplankton and have shown similar effects of light intensity on the relative rates of protein synthesis.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Literature Cited

  1. Calvin, M. and J.A. Bassham: The photosynthesis of carbon compounds, 127 pp. New York: Benjamin 1962

  2. Casselton, P.J. and P.J. Syrett: The oxidation of 14C-labelled glucose by Chlonella vulgaris. 2. The fate of radioactive carbon. Ann. Bot. (N.S.) 26, 83–94 (1962)

  3. Fogg, G.E.: Photosynthesis and formation of fats in a diatom. Ann. Bot. (N.S.) 20, 265–285 (1956)

  4. Fogg, G.E.: Nitrogen nutrition and metabolic patterns in algae. In: Utilization of nitrogen and its compounds by plants. Symp. Soc. exp. Biol. 13, 106–125 (1959)

  5. Guillard, R.R.L. and J.H. Ryther: Studies of marine planktonic diatoms. 1. Cyclotella nana Hustedt, and Detonula confervacea (Cleve) Gran. Can. J. Microbiol. 8, 229–239 (1962)

  6. Hauschild, A.H.W., C.D. Nelson and G. Krotkov: The effect of light quality on the products of photosynthesis in Chlorella vulgaris. Can. J. Bot. 40, 179–189 (1962a)

  7. ———: The effect of light quality on the products of photosynthesis in green and blue-green algae, and in photosynthetic bacteria. Can. J. Bot. 40, 1619–1630 (1962b)

  8. Holm-Hansen, O.: Assimilation of carbon dioxide. In: Physiology and biochemistry of algae, pp 25–45. Ed. by R.A. Lewin. London: Academic Press 1962

  9. —, K. Nishida, V. Moses and M. Calvin: Effects of mineral salts on short-term incorporation of carbon dioxide in Chlorella. J. exp. Bot. 10, 109–124 (1959)

  10. Jordan, D.O.: The chemistry of nucleic acids, pp 79–83. London: Butterworth 1960

  11. Krotkov, G.: The nature of photosynthetic products. Trans. R. Soc., Can. (Section V; Ser. 3) 54, 1–14 (1960)

  12. Morris, I.: Some effects of chloramphenicol on the metabolism of Chlorella. I. The effect on protein, polysaccharide and nucleic acid synthesis. Arch. Mikrobiol. 54, 160–168 (1966)

  13. —: The effect of methyl glyoxal on growth and cell division of Chlamydomonas reinhardii. Physiologia P1. 22, 1059–1068 (1969)

  14. — and H.E. Glover: Questions on the mechanism of temperature adaptation in marine phytoplankton. Mar. Biol. 24, 147–154 (1974)

  15. Olive, J.H., D.M. Benton and J. Kishler: Distribution of C-14 products of photosynthesis and its relationship to phytoplankton composition and rate of photosynthesis. Ecology 50, 380–386 (1969)

  16. — and J.H. Morrison: Variations in distribution of 14C in cell extracts of phytoplankton living under natural conditions. Limol. Oceanogr. 12, 383–391 (1967)

  17. Partridge, S.M.: Application of the paper partition chromatogram to the qualitative analysis of reducing sugars. Nature, Lond. 158, 270–271 (1946)

  18. Roberts, R.B., D.B. Cowie, P.H. Abelson, E.T. Bolton and R.J. Britten: Studies of biosynthesis in Escherichia coli. Publs Carnegie Instn 607, 1–521 (1955)

  19. Steemann-Nielsen, E.: The use of radioactive carbon (C14) for measuring organic production in the sea. J. Cons. perm. int. Explor. Mer. 18, 117–140 (1952)

  20. Strickland, J.D.H.: Measuring the production of marine phytoplankton. Bull. Fish. Res. Bd Can. 122, 1–172 (1960)

  21. Syrett, P.J.: The assimilation of ammonia by nitrogen-starved cells of Chlorella vulgaris. II. The assimilation of ammonia to other compounds. Ann. Bot. N.S. (Lond.) 17, 20–36 (1953)

  22. —: Nitrogen assimilation. In: Physiology and biochemistry of algae, pp 171–188. Ed. by R.A. Lewin. London: Academic Press 1962

  23. Wallen, D.G. and G.H. Geen: Light quality in relation to growth, photosynthetic rates and carbon metabolism in two species of marine plankton algae. Mar. Biol. 10, 34–43 (1971a)

  24. ——: The nature of the photosynthate in natural phytoplankton populations in relation to light quality. Mar. Biol. 10, 157–168 (1971b)

Download references

Author information

Additional information

Communicated by J.H.S. Blaxter, Oban

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Morris, I., Glover, H.E. & Yentsch, C.S. Products of photosynthesis by marine phytoplankton: the effect of environmental factors on the relative rates of protein synthesis. Mar. Biol. 27, 1–9 (1974).

Download citation


  • Phytoplankton
  • Fractionation
  • Protein Synthesis
  • Photosynthesis
  • Solvent Extraction