Production and Fate of Oxylipins in Waters of the Western Antarctic Peninsula: Linkages Between UV Radiation, Lipid Peroxidation, and Carbon Cycling
Production and Fate of Oxylipins in Waters of the Western Antarctic Peninsula
The depletion of stratospheric ozone over Antarctica leads to abnormally high levels of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun reaching the surface of the ocean. This phenomenon is predicted to continue for the next half century, despite bans on ozone-destroying pollutants. Phytoplankton in the near surface ocean are subjected to variable amounts of UVR and contain a lot of lipids (fats). Because phytoplankton are at the base of the food chain their lipids makes their way into the Antarctic marine ecosystem's food web. The molecular structures of phytoplankton lipids are easily altered by UVR. When this happens, their lipids can be transformed from healthy molecules into potentially harmful molecules(oxylipins) known to be disruptive to reproductive and developmental processes. This project will use state-of-the-art molecular methods to answer questions about extent to which UVR damages lipid molecules in phytoplankton, and how these resultant molecules might effect the food chain in the ocean near Antarctica.
Lipid peroxidation is often invoked as consequence of increased exposure of phytoplankton to UVR-produced reactive oxygen species (ROS), but the literature is practically silent on peroxidized lipids and their byproducts (i.e. oxylipins) in the ocean. In waters of the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), spring-time blooms of diatoms contribute significantly to overall marine primary production. Oxylipins from diatoms can be highly bioactive; their impact on zooplankton grazers, bacteria, and other phytoplankton has been the subject of intense study. However, almost all of this work has focused on the production of oxylipins via enzymatic pathways, not by pathways involving UVR and/or ROS. Furthermore, rigorous experimental work on the effects of oxylipins has been confined almost exclusively to pure cultures and artificial communities. Thus, the true potential of these molecules to disrupt carbon cycling is very poorly-constrained, and is entirely unknown in the waters of the WAP. Armed with new highly-sensitive, state-of-the-art analytical techniques based on high-mass-resolution mass spectrometry, the principal investigator and his research group have begun to uncover an exquisite diversity of oxylipins in natural WAP planktonic communities. These techniques will be applied to understand the connections between UVR, ROS, oxylipins, and carbon cycling. The project will answer the question of how UVR, via ROS, affects oxylipin production by diatoms in WAP surface waters in controlled experiments conducted at a field station. With the answer to this question in hand, the project will also seek to answer how this phenomenon impacts the flow of carbon, particularly the export of organic carbon from the system, during a research cruise. The level of UVR-induced stresses experienced by oxylipin-rich planktonic communities in the WAP is unique, making Antarctica the only location for answering these fundamental questions. Major activities will include laboratory experiments with artificial membranes and diatom cultures, as well field experiments with phytoplankton, zooplankton, and bacteria in WAP waters.
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