Collaborative research: Antarctic diatom proteorhodopsins: Characterization and a potential role in the iron-limitation response
Characterization of Antarctic diatom proteorhodopsins
Proteorhodopsins (PR) are retinal-binding membrane proteins that can act as light-driven proton pumps to generate energy that can be used for metabolism and growth. The discovery of PRs in many diverse marine prokaryotic microbes has initiated extensive investigations into their distributions and functional roles. Recently, a rhodopsin-like gene of the proton-pumping variety was identified in diatoms thus revealing their presence within obligate marine eukaryotic photoautotrophs. Since this time, PRs have been identified in a number of diatom isolates although there appears to be a much higher frequency of PR in diatoms residing in cold, iron-limited regions of the ocean, particularly in the Southern Ocean (SO). PR is especially suited for use in SO phytoplankton since unlike conventional photosynthesis, it uses no iron and its reaction rate is insensitive to temperature. The overall objective of our proposed project is to characterize Antarctic diatom-PR and determine its role in the adaptation of SO diatoms to the prevailing conditions of low iron concentrations and extremely low temperatures. Our research objectives will be achieved through a combination of molecular, biochemical and physiological measurements in diatom isolates recently obtained from the Western Antarctic Peninsula region. We will determine the proton-pumping characteristics and pumping rates of PR as a function of light intensity and wavelength, the resultant PR-linked intracellular ATP production rates, and the cellular localization of the protein. We will examine under which environmental conditions Antarctic diatom-PR is most highly expressed and construct a cellular energy budget that includes diatom-PR when grown under these different growth conditions. Estimates of the energy flux generated by PR in PR-containing diatoms will be compared to total energy generation by the photosynthetic light reactions and metabolically coupled respiration rates. Finally, we will compare the characteristics and gene expression of diatom-PR in Antarctic diatoms to PR-containing diatoms isolated from temperate regions in order to investigate if there is a preferential dependence on energy production through diatom-PR in diatoms residing in cold, iron-limited regions of the ocean.
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