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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 35:17-29 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/ame035017

Photophysiology of the marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. WH8102, a new model organism

C. Six1, J. C. Thomas2, B. Brahamsha3, Y. Lemoine4, F. Partensky1,*

1Station Biologique, UMR 7127 CNRS et Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Place Georges Tessier, 29682 Roscoff cedex, France
2Ecole Normale Supérieure, FRE 2433 ŒOrganismes Photosynthétiques et Environement¹, 46 rue d¹Ulm, 75230 Paris cedex 05, France
3Marine Biology Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, Gilman Drive, La Jolla, California 92093-0202, USA
4Equipe de Cytophysiologie végétale et Phycologie, UPRES-A CNRS 8013 ELICO (Ecosystèmes Littoraux et Côtiers), Université des Sciences et Technologie de Lille, Cité Scientifique, Bâtiment SN2, 59655 Villeneuve d'Asq, France
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Synechococcus spp. constitute a major and ubiquitous component of marine ecosystems. The genome of one strain of this genus, WH8102, has recently been completely sequenced. Since it can also be genetically manipulated, this clone has the potential to become a new model organism; however, to date, it remains poorly characterised in terms of pigment composition, optical properties and photophysiology. It has a very high phycourobilin to phycoerythrobilin (PUB:PEB) ratio (ca. 1.95 at low light), and is therefore representative of Synechococcus populations found in oligotrophic areas of the ocean. We show here that this strain has a very wide growth irradiance range from <15 to >650 μmol photons m-2 s-1 continuous white light, with a maximum growth rate (μmax = 1.13 ± 0.02 d-1) at 207 μmol quanta m-2 s-1 (Imax). As cells acclimated to high light, drastic variations in the chlorophyll a (chl a), b-carotene and phycoerythrin (PE) contents were observed, reaching a quasi steady state around Imax. In contrast, the zeaxanthin content remained approximately constant whatever the light level. Similarly, the carbon and nitrogen contents did not significantly vary with irradiance. Red and orange fluorescences, as measured by flow cytometry, were found to correlate well with chl a and PE contents, respectively. Spectrometric analyses of phycobilisome (PBS)-containing fractions from cells grown under different photon fluxes suggest a specific reduction of the PEII content relative to other phycobiliproteins (PBPs) during acclimation of the PBSs to high light.

KEY WORDS: Synechococcus · Marine cyanobacteria · Photoacclimation · Light stress · Phycobilisomes · Pigment content · C:N ratio · Flow cytometry

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