Dynamics of Superoxide Production and Decay in Natural Trichodesmium Colonies from the Sargasso Sea: Implications for Cell Signaling

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Colleen M Hansel1, Carolyn Buchwald1, Julia M Diaz1, Sonya Dyhrman2 and Ben A.S. Van Mooy1, (1)Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Department of Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry, Woods Hole, MA, United States, (2)Columbia University, Palisades, NY, United States
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are key players in the biogeochemistry of the ocean, where they serve a critical role in the cycling of carbon and metals. Research in the past decade has introduced phytoplankton and, most recently, heterotrophic bacteria as significant sources of ROS, including superoxide, within both photic and aphotic regions of the ocean. ROS are both beneficial and detrimental to life. For instance, superoxide is a vital inter- and intra-cellular signaling molecule, yet at high concentrations it induces lipid peroxidation and initiates programmed cell death (PCD). In fact, superoxide has been implicated in PCD in the nitrogen-fixing diazotroph Trichodesmium, presumably leading to the demise of blooms within oligotrophic marine systems. Here, we explore the rates of superoxide production and decay by natural Trichodesmium populations obtained from various surface waters in the Sargasso Sea. We investigate also the role of light and colony density and morphology (puff v. raft) on superoxide fluxes. We find that Trichodesmium colonies produce extracellular superoxide at extremely high rates in the dark that are on par with those of the toxic raphidophyte Chattonella. The rates of superoxide production, however, rapidly decline with increasing cell density pointing to a role for superoxide in cell signaling in these organisms. We also find extremely rapid extracellular superoxide degradation by Trichodesmium. Together, this likely reflects a need for these organisms to maintain ROS at levels that will support signaling but below the threshold level that triggers PCD or oxidative damage. We also show differences in the effect of light on superoxide fluxes as a function of Trichodesmium colony morphology, suggesting differences in either colony physiology or associated bacterial symbionts. These findings point to complex physiological, ecological, and physical influences on ROS dynamics in phytoplankton that require further exploration.