Growth at low temperature causes nitrogen limitation in the cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002
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The coloration of cells of the cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002 changed from normal blue-green to yellow-green when cells were grown at 15° C in a medium containing nitrate as the sole nitrogen source. This change of coloration was similar to a general response to nutrient deprivation (chlorosis). For the chlorotic cells at 15° C, the total amounts of phycobiliproteins and chlorophyll a decreased, high levels of glycogen accumulated, and growth was arithmetic rather than exponential. These changes in composition and growth occurred in cells grown at low (50 μE m–2 s–1) as well as high (250 μE m–2 s–1) light intensity. After a temperature shift-up to 38° C, chlorotic cells rapidly regained their normal blue-green coloration and normal exponential growth rate within 7 h. When cells were grown at 15° C in a medium containing urea as the reduced nitrogen source, cells grew exponentially and the symptoms of chlorosis were not observed. The decrease in photosynthetic oxygen evolution activity at low temperature was much smaller than the decrease in growth rate for cells grown on nitrate as the nitrogen source. These studies demonstrate that low-temperature-induced chlorosis of Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002 is caused by nitrogen limitation and is not the result of limited photosynthetic activity or photodamage to the photosynthetic apparatus, and that nitrogen assimilation is an important aspect of the low-temperature physiology of cyanobacteria.
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