DIEL IN SITU PICOPHYTOPLANKTON CELL DEATH CYCLES COUPLED WITH CELL DIVISION

Authors


  • Received 24 May 2010. Accepted 11 May 2011.

Abstract

The diel variability in picophytoplankton cell death was analyzed by quantifying the proportion of dead cyanobacteria Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus cells along several in situ diel cycles in the open Mediterranean Sea. During the diel cycle, total cell abundance varied on average 2.8 ± 0.6 and 2.6 ± 0.4 times for Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus populations, respectively. Increasing percentages of dead cells of Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus were observed during the course of the day reaching the highest values around dusk and decreasing as the night progressed, indicating a clear pattern of diel variation in the cell mortality of both cyanobacteria. Diel cycles of cell division were also monitored. The maximum percentage of dead cells (Max % DC) and the G2 + M phase of the cell division occurred within a period of 2 h for Synechoccoccus and 4.5 h for Prochlorococcus, and the lowest fraction of dead cells occurred at early morning, when the maximum number of cells in G1 phase were also observed. The G1 maximum corresponded with the maximal increase in newly divided cells (minimum % dead cells), and the subsequent exposure of healthy daughter cells to environmental stresses during the day resulted in the progressive increase in dying cells, with the loss of these cells from the population when cell division takes place. The discovery of diel patterns in cell death observed revealed the intense dynamics of picocyanobacterial populations in nature.

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