Polyphosphate in Trichodesmium from the low-phosphorus Sargasso Sea
Limnol. Oceanogr., 55(5), 2010, 2161-2169 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2010.55.5.2161
ABSTRACT: Polyphosphate (polyP) is often considered to be the product of luxury uptake in areas of excess phosphorus (P), but can also accumulate in P-depleted cells in response to P resupply. To test the hypothesis that polyP is present in phytoplankton from oligotrophic systems, the marine diazotroph Trichodesmium was collected from the low-P surface waters of the Sargasso Sea and assayed with solid-state 31P nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Up to 25% of Trichodesmium cellular P was characterized as polyP, despite physiological data that indicated the colonies were P deplete. This was consistent with culture studies where there were high percentages of polyP under P-deplete conditions. All Trichodesmium species examined had the genetic machinery to produce and degrade polyP. Trends in the amount of Trichodesmium polyP along the cruise transect showed that allocation of P to polyP was consistently high, and that the ratio of polyP : carbon varied with changes in temperature and mixed-layer depth. It may be that Trichodesmium was taking advantage of pulses in P supply, and that polyP is a physiological fingerprint of this variability. Additionally, if polyP formation is a common trait in phytoplankton, polyP released from cells could be an additional bioavailable component of the dissolved organic P pool. Taken together, this study highlights the importance of polyP to P cycling and cellular P allocation even in oligotrophic regions.