• Akinete;
  • Aphanizomenon ;
  • cyanobacteria;
  • dormancy;
  • Nostocales

Akinetes are spore-like nonmotile cells that differentiate from vegetative cells of filamentous cyanobacteria from the order Nostocales. They play a key role in the survival and distribution of these species and contribute to their perennial blooms. Various environmental factors were reported to trigger the differentiation of akinetes including light intensity and quality, temperature, and nutrient deficiency. Here, we report that deprivation of potassium ion (K+) triggers akinete development in the cyanobacterium Aphanizomenon ovalisporum. Akinetes formation is initiated 3 d–7 d after an induction by K+ depletion, followed by 2–3 weeks of a maturation process. Akinete formation occurs within a restricted matrix of environmental conditions such as temperature, light intensity or photon flux. Phosphate is essential for akinete maturation and P-limitation restricts the number of mature akinetes. DNA replication is essential for akinete maturation and akinete development is limited in the presence of Nalidixic acid. While our results unequivocally demonstrated the effect of K+ deficiency on akinete formation in laboratory cultures of A. ovalisporum, this trigger did not cause Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii to produce akinetes. Anabaena crassa however, produced akinetes upon potassium deficiency, but the highest akinete concentration was achieved at conditions that supported vegetative growth. It is speculated that an unknown internal signal is associated with the cellular response to K+ deficiency to induce the differentiation of a certain vegetative cell in a trichome into an akinete. A universal stress protein that functions as mediator in K+ deficiency signal transduction cascade, may communicate between the lack of K+ and akinete induction.