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Effects of light intensity and nutrient availability on diel patterns of cell metabolism and growth in populations of Synechococcus spp.


Between July 21 and August 8, 1984, phytoplankton were collected from the surface (2 m) and/or chlorophyll maximum of a neritic front, warm-core eddy 84-E and Wilkinson's Basin in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean and incubated up to 38 h in 200-liter vats. Effects of light intensity and nutrient availability on diel patterns of cell metabolism were analyzed in a 0.6- to 1-μm fraction, where Synechococcus spp. represented 80 to 100% of the total photoautotrophs. Populations held under in situ conditions exhibited daytime peaks in photosynthetic potential (Pmax) that were an order of magnitude higher than nighttime Pmax values. Daytime phasing of Pmax peaks had no relationship to asynchronous fluctuations in cellular activities of ribulose 1,5 bisphosphate carboxylase (RUBPCase) or phosphoenol pyruvate carboxylase (PEPCase), or to variations in chlorophyll content. Daytime Pmax peaks were about 12 h out of phase with nighttime maxima in the frequency of dividing cells (FDC). The phase relationship between Pmax and FDC could be altered by manipulating environmental conditions. High light exposure of depp populations did not affect timing of the Pmax peak, but its magnitude increased and coincided with increased RUBPCase activity and chlorophyll photobleaching. In the eddy population, a major shift in the timing of peak Pmax was induced when increased light intensity was accompanied by nutrient enrichment. This change coincided with major increases in cellular chlorophyll and carboxylating enzyme activity. Lowering irradiance and/or increasing nutrient availability elicited different diel pattern in cellular metabolism in surface populations from the eddy and from Wilkinson's Basin that appeared linked to differences in the nutrient status of the cells. Rates of cell division estimated from the percentage of dividing cells in preserved samples were 0.83 divisions d-1 in surface warm-core eddy populations, supporting the view that carbon and nitrogen turnover rates in oligotrophic waters can be sufficient to promote near optimal growth of Synechococcus spp.

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Communicated by J. P. Grassle, Woods Hole

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Prézelin, B.B., Glover, H.E. & Campbell, L. Effects of light intensity and nutrient availability on diel patterns of cell metabolism and growth in populations of Synechococcus spp.. Mar. Biol. 95, 469–480 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00409576

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  • Chlorophyll
  • Phytoplankton
  • Synechococcus
  • Pyruvate Carboxylase
  • Phosphoenol Pyruvate Carboxylase