MEPS 493:57-69 (2013)  -  doi:10.3354/meps10532

Nutrient pulse induces dynamic changes in cellular C:N:P, amino acids, and paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins in Alexandrium tamarense

Dedmer B. Van de Waal1,2,*, Urban Tillmann3, Mingming Zhu3, Boris P. Koch3,4, Björn Rost2, Uwe John3

1Department of Aquatic Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology, PO Box 50, 6700 AB Wageningen, The Netherlands
2Marine Biogeosciences and 3Ecological Chemistry, Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung, Am Handelshafen 12, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
4University of Applied Sciences, An der Karlstadt 8, 27568 Bremerhaven, Germany

ABSTRACT: Alexandrium tamarense is a common harmful algal bloom species that can cause high concentrations of paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins (PSTs) in marine coastal waters. PSTs are nitrogen-rich alkaloids, and their production has been shown to depend on resource conditions as well as on growth rate. We hypothesized that PST content in A. tamarense depends on the nitrogen availability and will increase with cellular N:P ratios and arginine content. To test this hypothesis, we first grew A. tamarense cells under nitrogen-starved, phosphorus-starved and nutrient-replete conditions. Subsequently, we transferred cells into a nutrient-rich medium and followed dynamic changes in growth, elemental stoichiometry, as well as amino acid and PST content and composition. Our results illustrate that PST content was lowest under nitrogen starvation, intermediate under nutrient-replete conditions, and highest under phosphorus starvation. As expected, PST content correlated well with cellular N:P ratios and arginine content. Upon transfer of cells into a nutrient-replete medium, PST content varied with growth rate, depending on the growth-controlling resource. Specifically, PST content increased with growth when recovering from nitrogen starvation and decreased with growth when recovering from phosphorus starvation. Furthermore, PST composition shifted towards less hydroxylated analogues upon resumption of growth. Our findings also illustrate a high potential for luxury consumption of phosphorus by A. tamarense. The applied comprehensive approach will help to further elucidate the intriguing coupling between carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus assimilation and the synthesis of amino acids and PSTs.


KEY WORDS: Harmful algal bloom · C:N:P stoichiometry · PSP toxins · Amino acids · Alexandrium tamarense


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Cite this article as: Van de Waal DB, Tillmann U, Zhu M, Koch BP, Rost B, John U (2013) Nutrient pulse induces dynamic changes in cellular C:N:P, amino acids, and paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins in Alexandrium tamarense. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 493:57-69

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