Antagonistic co-limitation through ion promiscuity - On the metal sensitivity of Thalassiosira oceanica under phosphorus stress.


Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3AN, UK. Electronic address: [Email]


Nutrient limitation of primary producers is a fundamental principle in biogeochemical oceanography and has been used with great success in prescribing understanding to patterns of marine primary productivity. In recent years the paradigm of nutrient limitation has expanded from single nutrient limitation towards concepts of co-limitation by multiple resources. Interactive effects between multiple limiting resources are now thought commonplace in marine microbial communities. Here we investigate the response exhibited by phosphate-limited Thalassiosira oceanica to elevated concentrations of the phosphate analogs vanadate, arsenate and molybdate. Enrichments in external arsenate and vanadate to phosphate-limited cultures act to suppress growth rates entirely, an effect not seen in phosphate replete conditions. Retardation of growth rates is attributed to mistaken uptake through ion promiscuity as evidenced by observations of significant intracellular accumulation of both arsenic and vanadium under phosphate limited conditions. We describe this novel co-limitation scenario as dependent antagonistic co-limitation (DAC), and suggest that this phenomenon of non-deliberate intracellular accumulation could be used as both a proxy of phosphate stress in the modern ocean and a possible marker of phosphate depletion limiting the duration of oceanic anoxic events.

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