A molecular assessment of the iron stress response in the two phylogenetic clades of Trichodesmium

Authors

  • P. Dreux Chappell,

    1. MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Science and Engineering, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
    2. Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Eric A. Webb

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Marine Environmental Biology, University of Southern California, 3616 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0371, USA.
    Search for more papers by this author

*E-mail eawebb@usc.edu; Tel. (+1) 213 740 7954; Fax (+1) 213 740 2600.

Summary

Trichodesmium spp. play key roles in global carbon and nitrogen budgets and thus defining what controls their productivity is important for understanding climate change. While iron availability has been shown to be an important chemical factor for controlling both growth and nitrogen fixation rates in Trichodesmium, all culture experiments to date have focused solely on representatives from one clade of Trichodesmium. Genomic sequence analysis determined that the Trichodesmium erythraeum (IMS101) genome contains many of the archetypical genes involved in the prokaryotic iron stress response. Focusing on three of these genes, isiB, idiA and feoB, we found that all three showed an iron stress response in axenic T. erythraeum (IMS101), and their sequences were well conserved across four species in our Trichodesmium culture collection [consisting of two T. erythraeum strains (IMS101 and GBRTRLI101), two Trichodesmium tenue strains (Z-1 and H9-4), Trichodesmium thiebautii and Trichodesmium spiralis]. With clade-specific quantitative PCR (qPCR) primers for one of these genes, isiB, we found that high isiB expression at low Fe levels corresponded to specific reductions in N2 fixation rates in both major phylogenetic clades of Trichodesmium (the T. erythraeum clade and T. tenue clade). With regard to the two clades, the most significant difference determined was temperature optima, while more subtle differences in growth, N2 fixation rate and gene expression responses to Fe stress were also observed. However the apparent conservation of the Fe stress response in the Trichodesmium genus suggests that it is an important adaptation for their niche in the oligotrophic ocean.

Ancillary