Modulation of the iron limitation response by silicate and light availability in Southern Ocean diatoms



Dr. Sára Beszteri
Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung 
Sektion Polare Biologische Ozeanographie 


Project Description

Availability of iron, silicate and light have been recognized as the major determinants of phytoplankton growth, community composition, and, accordingly, material export to depth in the Southern Ocean. Diatoms, the dominant phytoplankton group of this region, have developed diverse adaptation strategies to the unique challenges imposed upon them in this high nutrient, low chlorophyll (HNLC) region. Several aspects of these adaptive strategies can be understood as reflecting trade-offs between optimizing gross growth rates (e.g., high affinity nutrient uptake systems, quick acclimation, high growth rates) vs. reducing mortality rates (slow growth, large size, thick silicate cell walls). In this project, I propose to investigate representatives for two extremes of this continuum: a fast growing, fast acclimating species that has been shown to respond quickly to iron addition (Chaetoceros debilis), and a slowly growing, but extremely well protected species (Fragilariopsis kerguelensis). Growth responses of these species to manipulation of nutrient and light availability have been studied previously. High throughput transcriptomic methods now provide a possibility to gain deeper insights into details of the cellular processes underlying these different adaptive strategies. I propose to apply deep transcriptome sequencing for characterization of the gene expression responses of these species to iron limitation, accompanied by high or low light and silicate availability. I hypothesize that the two different adaptive strategies outlined above represent different cellular regulatory networks, and that, in particular, silicate availability modulates cellular responses to iron limitation. This proposal complements ongoing work within the PACES programme of the Alfred-Wegener- Institute (Topic 1: “The Changing Arctic and Antarctic”, workpackage 4: “Antarctic Circumpolar Climate and Ecosystem Study”) by applying molecular approaches for understanding questions of evolutionary ecology affecting biogeochemical cycles.


DFG Programme: Infrastructure Priority Programmes

Term from 2012 to 2017