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Title: Divergent gene expression among phytoplankton taxa in response to upwelling: Divergent phytoplankton responses to upwelling
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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Environmental Microbiology
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
3069 to 3082
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Huber, Julie A. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Wind-driven upwelling followed by relaxation results in cycles of cold nutrient-rich water fueling intense phytoplankton blooms followed by nutrient depletion, bloom decline, and sinking of cells. Surviving cells at depth can then be vertically transported back to the surface with upwelled waters to seed another bloom. As a result of these cycles, phytoplankton communities in upwelling regions are transported through a wide range of light and nutrient conditions. Diatoms appear to be well suited for these cycles, but their responses to them remain understudied. To investigate the bases for diatoms’ ecological success in upwelling environments, we employed laboratory simulations of a complete upwelling cycle with a common diatom, Chaetoceros decipiens , and coccolithophore, Emiliania huxleyi . We show that while both organisms exhibited physiological and transcriptomic plasticity, the diatom displayed a distinct response enabling it to rapidly shift-up growth rates and nitrate assimilation when returned to light and available nutrients following dark nutrient-deplete conditions. As observed in natural diatom communities, C. decipiens highly expresses before upwelling, or frontloads, key transcriptional and nitrate assimilation genes, coordinating its rapid response to upwelling conditions. Low-iron simulations showed that C. decipiens is capable of maintaining this response when iron is limiting to growth,more »whereas E. huxleyi is not. Differential expression between iron treatments further revealed specific genes used by each organism under low iron availability. Overall, these results highlight the responses of two dominant phytoplankton groups to upwelling cycles, providing insight into the mechanisms fueling diatom blooms during upwelling events. IMPORTANCE Coastal upwelling regions are among the most biologically productive ecosystems. During upwelling events, nutrient-rich water is delivered from depth resulting in intense phytoplankton blooms typically dominated by diatoms. Along with nutrients, phytoplankton may also be transported from depth to seed these blooms then return to depth as upwelling subsides creating a cycle with varied conditions. To investigate diatoms’ success in upwelling regions, we compare the responses of a common diatom and coccolithophore throughout simulated upwelling cycles under iron-replete and iron-limiting conditions. The diatom exhibited a distinct rapid response to upwelling irrespective of iron status, whereas the coccolithophore’s response was either delayed or suppressed depending on iron availability. Concurrently, the diatom highly expresses, or frontloads, nitrate assimilation genes prior to upwelling, potentially enabling this rapid response. These results provide insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying diatom blooms and ecological success in upwelling regions.« less