Microbial Ecology

, Volume 72, Issue 2, pp 287–294 | Cite as

Searching for a Mate: Pheromone-Directed Movement of the Benthic Diatom Seminavis robusta

  • Karen Grace V. Bondoc
  • Christine Lembke
  • Wim Vyverman
  • Georg Pohnert
Microbiology of Aquatic Systems


Diatoms are species-rich microalgae that often have a unique life cycle with vegetative cell size reduction followed by size restoration through sexual reproduction of two mating types (MT+ and MT). In the marine benthic diatom Seminavis robusta, mate-finding is mediated by an l-proline-derived diketopiperazine, a pheromone produced by the attracting mating type (MT). Here, we investigate the movement patterns of cells of the opposite mating type (MT+) exposed to a pheromone gradient, using video monitoring and statistical modeling. We report that cells of the migrating mating type (MT+) respond to pheromone gradients by simultaneous chemotaxis and chemokinesis. Changes in movement behavior enable MT+ cells to locate the direction of the pheromone source and to maximize their encounter rate towards it.


Diatoms Chemoattraction Pheromone Chemokinesis Chemotaxis Mating success Modeling 



This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft within the framework of the CRC 1127 ChemBioSys, the IMPRS Exploration of Ecological Interactions with Molecular and Chemical Techniques, the International Leibniz Research School for Microbial and Biomolecular Interactions, the Flemish Research foundation project TG.0374.11 N, and the Ugent research grants 01/04611 and BOF15/GOA/17.

Supplementary material

248_2016_796_MOESM1_ESM.doc (80 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 80 kb)
248_2016_796_MOESM2_ESM.avi (27 mb)
Movie S1 The movie shows the attraction and accumulation of Seminavis robusta MT+ cells towards the diproline-loaded bead. Cells repeatedly touch the bead as an attempt to pair. The movie was accelerated 50 times and the scale bar indicates 50 μm. (AVI 27603 kb)
248_2016_796_MOESM3_ESM.avi (26.5 mb)
Movie S2 The movie shows that a control bead did not induce any reaction from S. robusta MT+ cells. The movie was accelerated 50 times and the scale bar indicates 50 μm. (AVI 27112 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Grace V. Bondoc
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christine Lembke
    • 1
  • Wim Vyverman
    • 3
  • Georg Pohnert
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry, Bioorganic AnalyticsFriedrich-Schiller-Universität JenaJenaGermany
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute for Chemical EcologyJenaGermany
  3. 3.Laboratory of Protistology and Aquatic Ecology, Department of BiologyUniversity GentGhentBelgium

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