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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 30:175-183 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/ame030175

Cell-surface proteolytic activity of photosynthetic dinoflagellates

Diane K. Stoecker*, Daniel E. Gustafson Jr.

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Horn Point Laboratory, PO Box 775, Cambridge, Maryland 21613, USA

ABSTRACT: We used the artificial substrate l-leucine 7-amido-4-methyl-coumarin (Leu-AMC) to measure leucine aminopeptidase (LAP) of dinoflagellates. Axenic cultures of Alexandrium tamarense, Heterocapsa triquetra and Prorocentrum minimum had considerable LAP associated with the cell surface. In non-axenic cultures of Akashiwo sanguinea, Gonyaulax grindleyi, Gyrodinium uncatenum, Karlodinium micrum and P. minimum, 60 to 99% of the total LAP activity was found in the >5 μm fraction, indicating association with the dinoflagellates rather than with bacteria. At 20°C, estimated activity ranged from 0.04 pmol cell-1 h-1 in the smallest species, K. micrum, to 2.56 pmol cell-1 h-1 in the largest species, G. grindleyi. Activity per cell could be predicted from cell size. During a mixed species dinoflagellate bloom in the Choptank River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, total LAP activity was positively correlated with dinoflagellate concentration. In Œred-water¹ samples, up to 76% of LAP activity was in the >2 μm fraction. We calculate that in red-water events, dinoflagellates may account for 50% or more of the in situ LAP activity. Cell-surface proteases may play a role in nutrition of mixotrophic dinoflagellates by providing amino acids for assimilation. Alternatively, released amino acids may be degraded by cell-surface amino acid oxidases to provide ammonium which can be taken up as a source of nitrogen.

KEY WORDS: LAP · Ectoenzyme · Mixotrophy · Osmotrophy

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