MEPS 220:73-82 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/meps220073

Siderophores in marine coastal waters and their relevance for iron uptake by phytoplankton: experiments with the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum

S. Soria-Dengg1, R. Reissbrodt2, U. Horstmann1,*

1Institut für Meereskunde, Düsternbrookerweg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany
2Robert Koch-Institut, Bereich Wernigerode, Burgstraße 37, 38855 Wernigerode, Germany
*Corresponding author. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Natural marine bacteria populations collected from nearshore waters produce different types of siderophores depending on the degree of iron limitation. These siderophores can facilitate iron uptake in the marine diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum. Water samples from 15 stations along the Italian coast of the northwest Adriatic Sea were collected and filter fractionated (3.0, 0.8 and 0.2 µm). Siderophore production in the fractions was determined using cross-feeding experiments with siderophore-auxotrophic bacteria. At most stations sampled, bacteria collected in the 3.0 and 0.8 µm filters produced siderophores which stimulated growth in Morganella morganii, the indicator strain for α-keto/ α-hydroxy acids. The results suggest that MGF (ŒMorganella-Growth Factor¹) production is common among filamentous and appendaged bacteria or strains associated with particles. Natural bacteria populations grown in iron-deficient media stimulated growth of all the indicator strains in the cross-feeding tests. Examples of known MGF which supply iron to M. morganii were tested for their ability to act as iron source for the marine diatom P. tricornutum. Iron uptake from 55Fe-MGFs was measured in P. tricornutum cells grown in Fe-sufficient and Fe-deficient media. Unchelated iron (55FeCl3 ) and 55FeEDTA were used as controls. The uptake of iron from the 55Fe-MGF and 55FeCl3 by Fe-deficient cells was higher (109 to 150 pgFe mg-1) than from 55FeEDTA (34 pgFe mg-1). Similarly, Fe-sufficient P. tricornutum took up iron from the 55Fe-MGF and 55FeCl3 to the same extent (~50 pgFe mg-1) while minimal uptake (8 pgFe mg-1) was measured from FeEDTA. In growth experiments where iron-deficient diatom cells were incubated in media containing different sources of iron, e.g. FeCl3, Fe-MGF and FeEDTA, a greater increase in number was observed in cells supplied with Fe-MGF. Further experiments also show that the uptake of Fe from MGF was enhanced by light and that a reduction step was involved in the uptake process. MGF also promoted the uptake of colloidal ferrihydrites. This study gives further evidence that siderophores produced by bacteria can be utilized by phytoplankton as an iron source. We therefore suggest that these substances play an important role in increasing the availability of iron to phytoplankton in coastal waters and thus are major factors defining the chemistry of iron in the marine environment.


KEY WORDS: Phytoplankton · Bacteria · Phaeodactylum tricornutum · Siderophores · MorganellaGrowth Factor · Iron-limitation · α-keto/α-hydroxy acids


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