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Blue- and green-light signals for gamete release in the brown alga, Silvetia compressa


The intertidal brown alga Silvetia compressa releases gametes from receptacles (the reproductive tissue) rapidly upon a dark transfer (following a photosynthesis-dependent period in the light, termed potentiation). In this study, the wavelength-dependence of this process was investigated. During the potentiation period in white light (WL), gametes are not released. However, gametes were released during potentiation in blue light (BL), or in low red light/blue light (RL/BL) ratios, but not in RL alone, high RL/BL ratios, or in broadband blue-green light (B-GL) (presence of BL, but absence of RL). RL was as effective as WL for potentiation, i.e., both lead to gamete release following transfer to darkness. Rates of linear photosynthetic electron transport were similar in RL and BL. Gamete release in BL was inhibited by equal amounts of additional narrow-waveband light between the green and red regions of the spectrum, with light-induced gamete release restricted between <491 nm and 509 nm. Very little light-induced gamete release occurred between 530 nm and 650 nm. It is proposed that a BL-responsive photoreceptor is responsible for light-induced gamete release. Transfer of WL-potentiated receptacles to GL near 530 nm resulted in significant de-potentiation and reduced gamete release during a subsequent dark transfer. This effect was not seen at 509 nm or 560 nm and revealed the presence of a second photoreceptor system repressing or counteracting potentiation in the light. We propose that the restriction of gamete release to periods when irradiance is blue-shifted may constitute a depth-sensing mechanism for this intertidal alga, allowing controlled release of gametes at high tide and/or less turbid periods, thus minimizing gamete dilution, and promoting fertilization success.

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G.P., E.S., and M.D. express our gratitude to Professor Paul Galland for hosting our visits to his laboratory in Marburg, his generosity in allowing us access to equipment, as well as helpful discussions. Many and ever-reliable algal collections were made by Diana Steller, University of California at Santa Cruz, Calif., USA. Silvia Busch (Philipps-Universitaet, Marburg, Germany) provided fine selections of bread for breakfast. Funding by the COST-49 program (EU), the Portuguese Science Foundation (FCT) project GAMETE (POCTI/BSE/39431/2001), and an FCT and European Social Fund (FSE) fellowship to G.P.

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Correspondence to Gareth A. Pearson.

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Pearson, G.A., Serrão, E.A., Dring, M. et al. Blue- and green-light signals for gamete release in the brown alga, Silvetia compressa . Oecologia 138, 193–201 (2004).

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  • External fertilization
  • Intertidal seaweed
  • Photoreceptor
  • Reproductive biology
  • Spawning