Transcriptome analysis of the sulfate deficiency response in the marine microalga Emiliania huxleyi

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Summary

  • The response to sulfate deficiency of plants and freshwater green algae has been extensively analysed by system biology approaches. By contrast, seawater sulfate concentration is high and very little is known about the sulfur metabolism of marine organisms.
  • Here, we used a combination of metabolite analysis and transcriptomics to analyse the response of the marine microalga Emiliania huxleyi as it acclimated to sulfate limitation.
  • Lowering sulfate availability in artificial seawater from 25 to 5 mM resulted in significant reduction in growth and intracellular concentrations of dimethylsulfoniopropionate and glutathione. Sulfate-limited E. huxleyi cells showed increased sulfate uptake but sulfate reduction to sulfite did not seem to be regulated. Sulfate limitation in E. huxleyi affected expression of 1718 genes. The vast majority of these genes were upregulated, including genes involved in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, and genes involved in the general stress response.
  • The acclimation response of E. huxleyi to sulfate deficiency shows several similarities to the well-described responses of Arabidopsis and Chlamydomonas, but also has many unique features. This dataset shows that even though E. huxleyi is adapted to constitutively high sulfate concentration, it retains the ability to re-program its gene expression in response to reduced sulfate availability.

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