AME 13:151-159 (1997)  -  doi:10.3354/ame013151

Bacterioplankton growth responses to temperature and chlorophyll variations in estuaries measured by thymidine:leucine incorporation ratio

Shiah FK, Ducklow HW

To identify the biochemical response of heterotrophic bacterioplankton to changing environmental conditions, seasonal and diel cycles of bacterial protein and DNA synthesis rates were estimated in temperate estuarine habitats from 3H-leucine (Leu) and 3H-thymidine (TdR) incorporation rates. Several short-term temperature manipulation experiments (5 to 35°C) and 2 mesocosm experiments were performed to examine the effects of temperature and substrate supply on the ratio of Leu:TdR, respectively. The molar ratio of Leu to TdR varied about 5-fold (5.6 to 29.5) in the field and the values of the ratio were lower and more constant during high temperature (>25°C) and high chlorophyll a (>8.0 μg l-1) periods. In the temperature manipulation experiments, the Leu:TdR ratio decreased as temperature increased. In the mesocosm experiments, the Leu:TdR ratio was negatively correlated with chlorophyll a concentrations and bacterial specific growth rates. We propose that changes toward less favorable environmental conditions (e.g. reductions in temperature or substrate supply in temperate estuaries) might reduce bacterial protein and DNA synthesis rates simultaneously. However, the former process may be favored to maximize survival and this might lead to a higher Leu:TdR ratio. Conversely, when environmental conditions turn favorable, both processes could be enhanced and bacteria might optimize DNA duplication over protein metabolism to maximize reproduction, resulting in lower Leu:TdR ratios. Our results further indicate the complementariness of 3H-thymidine and 3H-leucine incorporation measurements for understanding processes controlling bacterial production since the ratio of these 2 tracer methods varied independently with temperature and substrate supply.


Bacterioplankton · Diel and seasonal cycles · Estuary · DNA · Protein · Temperature · Unbalanced growth


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