Marine Biology

, Volume 86, Issue 1, pp 63–74 | Cite as

Photosynthetic characteristics of phycoerythrin-containing marine Synechococcus spp.

I. Responses to growth photon flux density
  • R. G. Barlow
  • R. S. Alberte


Marine Synechococcus spp. are sufficiently abundant to make a significant contribution to primary productivity in the ocean. They are characterized by containing high cellular levels of phycoerythrin which is highly fluorescent in vivo. We sought (Jan.–Apr., 1984) to determine the adaptive photosynthetic features of two clonal types of Synechococcus spp., and to provide a reliable physiological basis for interpreting remote sensing data in terms of the biomass and productivity of this group in natural assemblages. It was found that the two major clonal types optimize growth and photosynthesis at low photon flux densities by increasing the numbers of photosynthetic units per cell and by decreasing photosynthetic unit size. The cells of clone WH 7803 exhibited dramatic photoinhibition of photosynthesis and reduction in growth rate at high photon flux densities, accompanied by a large and significant increase in phycoerythrin fluorescence. Maximal photosynthesis of cells grown under 10–50 μE m-2 s-1 was reduced by 20 to 30% when the cells were exposed to photon flux densities greater than 150 μE m-2 s-1. However, steady-state levels of photosynthesis maintained for brief periods under these conditions were higher than those of cells grown continuously at high photon flux densities. No photoinhibition occurred in clone WH 8018 and rates of photosynthesis were greater than in WH 7803. Yields of in-vivo phycoerythrin fluorescence under all growth photon flux densities were lower in clone WH 8018 compared to clone WH 7803. Since significant inverse correlations were obtained between phycoerythrin fluorescence and Pmax and μ for both clones grown in laboratory culture, it may be possible to provide a reliable means of assessing the physiological state, photosynthetic capacity and growth rate of Synechococcus spp. in natural assemblages by remote sensing of phycoerythrin fluorescence. Poor correlations between phycoerythrin fluorescene and pigment content indicate that phycoerythrin fluorescence may not accurately estimate Synechococcus spp. biomass based on pigment content alone.


Biomass Photosynthesis Photosynthetic Capacity Synechococcus Pigment Content 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. G. Barlow
    • 1
  • R. S. Alberte
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, Barnes LaboratoryThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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