Molecular and photosynthetic responses to prolonged darkness and subsequent acclimation to re-illumination in the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum

Marianne Nymark, Kristin C Valle, Kasper Hancke, Per Winge, Kjersti Andresen, Geir Johnsen, Atle M Bones, Tore Brembu
PloS One 2013, 8 (3): e58722
Photosynthetic diatoms that live suspended throughout the water column will constantly be swept up and down by vertical mixing. When returned to the photic zone after experiencing longer periods in darkness, mechanisms exist that enable the diatoms both to survive sudden light exposure and immediately utilize the available energy in photosynthesis and growth. We have investigated both the response to prolonged darkness and the re-acclimation to moderate intensity white irradiance (E = 100 µmol m(-2) s(-1)) in the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum, using an integrated approach involving global transcriptional profiling, pigment analyses, imaging and photo-physiological measurements. The responses were studied during continuous white light, after 48 h of dark treatment and after 0.5 h, 6 h, and 24 h of re-exposure to the initial irradiance. The analyses resulted in several intriguing findings. Dark treatment of the cells led to 1) significantly decreased nuclear transcriptional activity, 2) distinct intracellular changes, 3) fixed ratios of the light-harvesting pigments despite a decrease in the total cell pigment pool, and 4) only a minor drop in photosynthetic efficiency (Φ(PSII_max)). Re-introduction of the cells to the initial light conditions revealed 5) distinct expression profiles for nuclear genes involved in photosynthesis and those involved in photoprotection, 6) rapid rise in photosynthetic parameters (α and rETR(max)) within 0.5 h of re-exposure to light despite a very modest de novo synthesis of photosynthetic compounds, and 7) increasingly efficient resonance energy transfer from fucoxanthin chlorophyll a/c-binding protein complexes to photosystem II reaction centers during the first 0.5 h, supporting the observations stated in 6). In summary, the results show that despite extensive transcriptional, metabolic and intracellular changes, the ability of cells to perform photosynthesis was kept intact during the length of the experiment. We conclude that P. tricornutum maintains a functional photosynthetic apparatus during dark periods that enables prompt recovery upon re-illumination.

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