Marine Biology

, Volume 149, Issue 3, pp 653–665 | Cite as

Different patterns of carotenoid composition and photosynthesis acclimation in two tropical red algae

  • M. Andersson
  • H. Schubert
  • M. Pedersén
  • P. SnoeijsEmail author
Research Article


To be able to survive, marine macroalgae in shallow coastal waters need mechanisms for short-term acclimation to fast changes in their environment. Of major importance are mechanisms that regulate the efficiency of photosynthesis by protecting PS II from photo-oxidative damage. Carotenoids, xanthophyll cycles and non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) are central constituents of such protection mechanisms. Red algae as a group do not have a universal carotenoid composition. We screened ten red algal species and selected two species, originating from similar ecological conditions but with different carotenoid compositions, for use in irradiance-acclimation experiments. We selected the tropical intertidal species Gracilaria domingensis and Kappaphycus alvarezii with antheraxanthin and lutein as major xanthophylls, respectively. Simultaneous in vivo fluorescence and O2 evolution experiments were performed at different irradiance levels, which allowed a direct comparison of overall photosynthetic performance with NPQ. Interconversions of xanthophylls (violaxanthin, zeaxanthin, β-cryptoxanthin and one unidentified carotenoid) did occur in G. domingensis, but not in response to sudden exposure to light. Thus, NPQ was not correlated with any xanthophyll cycle during short-term acclimation to light. G. domingensis had five times higher weight-specific photosynthetic rates than K. alvarezii, which can be explained by the thicker thallus of K. alvarezii. Chlorophyll-specific gross photosynthetic rates were higher in K. alvarezii, but net rates were the same for both species. G. domingensis showed an immediate strong onset of NPQ upon exposure to irradiance, followed by downregulation to the NPQ level required. In K. alvarezii NPQ increased slowly until the required NPQ level was reached. At high irradiance G. domingensis downregulated photosynthesis while K. alvarezii continued to produce O2 even at 2,000 μmol photons m−2 s−1 without NPQ increase. The strategy of K. alvarezii may provide short-term gains but with the risk of oxidative damage. The fast onset of NPQ in G. domingensis even at subsaturating irradiance as well as downregulation of photosynthesis when NPQ is saturated might provide this species with a competitive advantage under conditions of changing irradiance in the field.


Carotenoid Xanthophyll Zeaxanthin Violaxanthin Xanthophyll Cycle 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Financial support from the Sernanders Stiftelse, Uppsala University and the Stockholm Marine Research Centre is gratefully acknowledged. We thank two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments to an earlier draft of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Andersson
    • 1
  • H. Schubert
    • 2
  • M. Pedersén
    • 3
  • P. Snoeijs
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolution, Plant Ecology, Evolutionary Biology CentreUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.Aquatic EcologyUniversity of RostockRostockGermany
  3. 3.Department of BotanyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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