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Potassium drives daily reversible thallus enlargement in the marine red alga Porphyra leucosticta (Rhodophyta)


Growth rate in terms of area expansion per 30 min was measured in the marine red algae Porphyra leucosticta under light/dark cycles of 6:6 h. Thalli grown in artificial seawater (ASW), under controlled ionic concentrations, showed a rapid thallus expansion just after light-on (morning-peak). Dark phase began with a significant thallus contraction (dark-peak) but no growth was observed until the next light phase. The removal of K+ from the medium inhibited the reversible growth peak that this species shows after light-on. On the other hand, the removal of Na+ did not have an apparent effect on growth pattern. Addition of Rb+ to K+-free ASW restored the morning-peak to 60% of its value in ASW, but addition of Li+ failed to restore the morning-peak. Intracellular ion analyses revealed that after light-on, the internal K+ content of the cells of this species increased 4-fold in 90 min, reaching an intracellular concentration of up to 300 µmol K+ per gram fresh weight, and that this value remained fairly constant over the light phase. Addition of 100 mM of tetraethylammonium, a specific K+-channel blocker, inhibited the morning-peak by 40%. The Na+ and Cl contents in the cells increased rapidly in the first 45 min of the light phase, but then the internal concentrations of both ions decreased to their minimum values in the light phase. The carbonic anhydrase inhibitors acetazolamide and 6-ethoxyzolamide did not affect thallus expansion during the light phase. In contrast, thallus expansion in the light phase was completely inhibited by diethylstilbestrol, an inhibitor of the putative primary pump, and by 3-(3′,4′-dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea (DCMU), an inhibitor of photosynthesis, but not by sodium vanadate, a specific inhibitor of the plasma-membrane H+-ATPase. We suggest that the periodic oscillation of the short-term growth rate of P. leucosticta occurs in response to potassium fluxes, which control the osmotic pressure and eventually the relative cell volume. The possible effects of the loosening of the cell wall and the internal K+ concentration on the growth of this species are also discussed.

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Escassi, L., Aguilera, J., Figueroa, F.L. et al. Potassium drives daily reversible thallus enlargement in the marine red alga Porphyra leucosticta (Rhodophyta). Planta 214, 759–766 (2002).

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  • Growth rate Light/dark cycle Osmotic pressure Porphyra (thallus expansion/contraction) Potassium