Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 136, Issue 2, pp 147–160 | Cite as

Low oxygen affects photophysiology and the level of expression of two-carbon metabolism genes in the seagrass Zostera muelleri

  • Mikael Kim
  • Kasper Elgetti Brodersen
  • Milán Szabó
  • Anthony W. D. Larkum
  • John A. Raven
  • Peter J. Ralph
  • Mathieu PerniceEmail author
Original Article


Seagrasses are a diverse group of angiosperms that evolved to live in shallow coastal waters, an environment regularly subjected to changes in oxygen, carbon dioxide and irradiance. Zostera muelleri is the dominant species in south-eastern Australia, and is critical for healthy coastal ecosystems. Despite its ecological importance, little is known about the pathways of carbon fixation in Z. muelleri and their regulation in response to environmental changes. In this study, the response of Z. muelleri exposed to control and very low oxygen conditions was investigated by using (i) oxygen microsensors combined with a custom-made flow chamber to measure changes in photosynthesis and respiration, and (ii) reverse transcription quantitative real-time PCR to measure changes in expression levels of key genes involved in C4 metabolism. We found that very low levels of oxygen (i) altered the photophysiology of Z. muelleri, a characteristic of C3 mechanism of carbon assimilation, and (ii) decreased the expression levels of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase and carbonic anhydrase. These molecular-physiological results suggest that regulation of the photophysiology of Z. muelleri might involve a close integration between the C3 and C4, or other CO2 concentrating mechanisms metabolic pathways. Overall, this study highlights that the photophysiological response of Z. muelleri to changing oxygen in water is capable of rapid acclimation and the dynamic modulation of pathways should be considered when assessing seagrass primary production.


Diffusive boundary layer Photosynthesis Respiration RT-qPCR Seagrass 



The authors would like to thank UTS and C3 for strategic research support as well as Dr Audrey Commault, Dr Sutinee Sinutok and Paul Brooks for technical assistance. We also like to thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their comments which contributed in improving the quality of this article. The University of Dundee is a registered Scottish charity, No. 015096.


This study was funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (LP11020045), Climate Change Cluster Honours Scholarship, University of Technology Sydney (MK) and the Augustinus Foundation (KEB).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

11120_2017_452_MOESM1_ESM.docx (3.5 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 3538 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Climate Change ClusterUniversity of Technology SydneyUltimoAustralia
  2. 2.Division of Plant ScienceUniversity of Dundee at the James Hutton InstituteInvergowrie, DundeeUK

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