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Müller, Marius N (2015): Phytoplankton calcification as an effective mechanism to alleviate cellular calcium poisoning. PANGAEA,, Supplement to: Müller, Marius N; Barcelos e Ramos, Joana; Schulz, Kai Georg; Riebesell, Ulf; Kaźmierczak, J; Gallo, F; Mackinder, Luke C M; Li, Y; Nesterenko, P N; Trull, Tom W; Hallegraeff, Gustaaf M (2015): Phytoplankton calcification as an effective mechanism to alleviate cellular calcium poisoning. Biogeosciences, 12(21), 6493-6501,

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Marine phytoplankton has developed the remarkable ability to tightly regulate the concentration of free calcium ions in the intracellular cytosol at a level of ~ 0.1 µmol /l in the presence of seawater Ca2+ concentrations of 10 mmol/1. The low cytosolic calcium ion concentration is of utmost importance for proper cell signalling function. While the regulatory mechanisms responsible for the tight control of intracellular Ca2+ concentration are not completely understood, phytoplankton taxonomic groups appear to have evolved different strategies, which may affect their ability to cope with changes in seawater Ca2+ concentrations in their environment on geological time scales. For example, the Cretaceous (145 to 66 Ma ago), an era known for the high abundance of coccolithophores and the production of enormous calcium carbonate deposits, exhibited seawater calcium concentrations up to four times present-day levels. We show that calcifying coccolithophore species (Emiliania huxleyi, Gephyrocapsa oceanica and Coccolithus braarudii) are able to maintain their relative fitness (in terms of growth rate and photosynthesis) at simulated Cretaceous seawater calcium concentrations, whereas these rates are severely reduced under these conditions in some non-calcareous phytoplankton species (Chaetoceros sp., Ceratoneis closterium and Heterosigma akashiwo). Most notably, this also applies to a non-calcifying strain of E. huxleyi which displays a calcium-sensitivity similar to the non-calcareous species. We hypothesize that the process of calcification in coccolithophores provides an efficient mechanism to alleviate cellular calcium poisoning and thereby offered a potential key evolutionary advantage, responsible for the proliferation of coccolithophores during times of high seawater calcium concentrations. The exact function of calcification and the reason behind the highly-ornate physical structures of coccoliths remain elusive.
This study was funded by the Australian Research Council (DP 1093801) and Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico Brasil (CNPq, Processo: 405585/2013-6)
#NameShort NameUnitPrincipal InvestigatorMethodComment
1SpeciesSpeciesMüller, Marius N
2CalciumCammol/lMüller, Marius N
3Alkalinity, totalATµmol/kgMüller, Marius N
4Alkalinity, total, standard deviationAT std dev±Müller, Marius N
5Carbon, inorganic, dissolvedDICµmol/kgMüller, Marius N
6Carbon, inorganic, dissolved, standard deviationDIC std dev±Müller, Marius N
7pHpHMüller, Marius Ntotal scale
8Standard deviationStd dev±Müller, Marius NpH total scale
9Partial pressure of carbon dioxide (water) at sea surface temperature (wet air)pCO2water_SST_wetµatmMüller, Marius N
10Partial pressure of carbon dioxide, standard deviationpCO2 std dev±Müller, Marius N
11Calcite saturation stateOmega CalMüller, Marius N
12Calcite saturation state, standard deviationOmega Cal std dev±Müller, Marius N
13Growth rateµ1/dayMüller, Marius N
14Growth rate, standard deviationµ std dev±Müller, Marius N
15Carbon, organic, particulate, per cellPOCpg/#Müller, Marius N
16Carbon, organic, particulate, standard deviationPOC std dev±Müller, Marius N
17Photosynthetic competenceFv/FmMüller, Marius NPAM pulse amplitude modulation fluorometry
18Photosynthetic efficiency, standard deviationalpha std dev±Müller, Marius NPAM
19Production of particulate organic carbon per cellPOC prodpg/#/dayMüller, Marius N
20Standard deviationStd dev±Müller, Marius NPOC Production
21Carbon, inorganic, particulate, per cellPIC/cellpg/#Müller, Marius N
22Standard deviationStd dev±Müller, Marius NPIC per cell
23Particulate inorganic carbon production per cellPIC prodpg/#/dayMüller, Marius N
24Standard deviationStd dev±Müller, Marius NPIC production
714 data points

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