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Title: Different iron storage strategies among bloom-forming diatoms

Diatoms are prominent eukaryotic phytoplankton despite being limited by the micronutrient iron in vast expanses of the ocean. As iron inputs are often sporadic, diatoms have evolved mechanisms such as the ability to store iron that enable them to bloom when iron is resupplied and then persist when low iron levels are reinstated. Two iron storage mechanisms have been previously described: the protein ferritin and vacuolar storage. To investigate the ecological role of these mechanisms among diatoms, iron addition and removal incubations were conducted using natural phytoplankton communities from varying iron environments. We show that among the predominant diatoms,Pseudo-nitzschiawere favored by iron removal and displayed unique ferritin expression consistent with a long-term storage function. Meanwhile,ChaetocerosandThalassiosiragene expression aligned with vacuolar storage mechanisms.Pseudo-nitzschiaalso showed exceptionally high iron storage under steady-state high and low iron conditions, as well as following iron resupply to iron-limited cells. We propose that bloom-forming diatoms use different iron storage mechanisms and that ferritin utilization may provide an advantage in areas of prolonged iron limitation with pulsed iron inputs. As iron distributions and availability change, this speculated ferritin-linked advantage may result in shifts in diatom community composition that can alter marine ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. E12275-E12284
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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