Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 140, Issue 1, pp 65–76 | Cite as

The ratio of single-turnover to multiple-turnover fluorescence varies predictably with growth rate and cellular chlorophyll in the green alga Dunaliella tertiolecta

  • Matthew BrownEmail author
  • William Bryce Penta
  • Bethan Jones
  • Mike Behrenfeld
Original Article


Marine phytoplankton experience a wide range of nutrient and light conditions in nature and respond to these conditions through changes in growth rate, chlorophyll concentration, and other physiological properties. Chlorophyll fluorescence is a non-invasive and efficient tool for characterizing changes in these physiological properties. In particular, the introduction of fast repetition rate fluorometry (FRRf) into studies of phytoplankton physiology has enabled detailed studies of photosynthetic components and kinetics. One property retrieved with an FRRf is the ‘single-turnover’ maximum fluorescence (FmST) when the primary electron acceptor, Qa, is reduced but the plastoquinone (PQ) pool is oxidized. A second retrieved property is the ‘multiple-turnover’ fluorescence (FMT) when both Qa and PQ are reduced. Here, variations in FmST and FMT were measured in the green alga Dunaliella tertiolecta grown under nitrate-limited, light-limited, and replete conditions. The ratio of FmST to FMT (ST/MT) showed a consistent relationship with cellular chlorophyll in D. tertiolecta across all growth conditions. However, the ST/MT ratio decreased with growth rate under nitrate-limited conditions but increased with growth rate under light-limited conditions. In addition, cells from light-limited conditions showed a high accumulation of Qb-nonreducing centers, while cells from nitrate-limited conditions showed little to none. We propose that these findings reflect differences in the reduction and oxidation rates of plastoquinone due to the unique impacts of light and nitrate limitation on the stoichiometry of light-harvesting components and downstream electron acceptors.


Phytoplankton Photoacclimation Chlorophyll fluorescence FRR Dunaliella tertiolecta Qb-nonreducing centers 



We thank Dr. Allen Milligan for his insightful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. This study was funded in part by a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship.


This study was funded by NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NNX15AN14H).


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Botany and Plant PathologyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Department of MicrobiologyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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