The role of C4 metabolism in the marine diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum

Maya Haimovich-Dayan, Nitsan Garfinkel, Daniela Ewe, Yehouda Marcus, Ansgar Gruber, Heiko Wagner, Peter G Kroth, Aaron Kaplan
New Phytologist 2013, 197 (1): 177-85
Diatoms are important players in the global carbon cycle. Their apparent photosynthetic affinity for ambient CO(2) is much higher than that of ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco), indicating that a CO(2)-concentrating mechanism (CCM) is functioning. However, the nature of the CCM, a biophysical or a biochemical C(4), remains elusive. Although (14)C labeling experiments and presence of complete sets of genes for C(4) metabolism in two diatoms supported the presence of C(4), other data and predicted localization of the decarboxylating enzymes, away from Rubisco, makes this unlikely. We used RNA-interference to silence the single gene encoding pyruvate-orthophosphate dikinase (PPDK) in Phaeodactylum tricornutum, essential for C(4) metabolism, and examined the photosynthetic characteristics. The mutants possess much lower ppdk transcript and PPDK activity but the photosynthetic K(1/2) (CO(2)) was hardly affected, thus clearly indicating that the C(4) route does not serve the purpose of raising the CO(2) concentration in close proximity of Rubisco in P. tricornutum. The photosynthetic V(max) was slightly reduced in the mutant, possibly reflecting a metabolic constraint that also resulted in a larger lipid accumulation. We propose that the C(4) metabolism does not function in net CO(2) fixation but helps the cells to dissipate excess light energy and in pH homeostasis.

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