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Metabolic Consequences of Cobalamin Scarcity in the Diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana as Revealed Through Metabolomics

Heal, Katherine R., Kellogg, Natalie A., Carlson, Laura T., Lionheart, Regina M., Ingalls, Anitra E.
Protist 2019 v.170 no.3 pp. 328-348
Bacillariophyceae, Thalassiosira pseudonana, aquatic food webs, biosynthesis, carbon sequestration, enzymes, marine ecosystems, metabolites, metabolomics, methionine, methylmalonyl-coenzyme A, photosynthesis, phytoplankton, polyamines, vitamin B12
Diatoms perform an estimated 20% of global photosynthesis, form the base of the marine food web, and sequester carbon into the deep ocean through the biological pump. In some areas of the ocean, diatom growth is limited by the micronutrient cobalamin (vitamin B12), yet the biochemical ramifications of cobalamin limitation are not well understood. In a laboratory setting, we grew the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana under replete and low cobalamin conditions to elucidate changes in metabolite pools. Using metabolomics, we show that the diatom experienced a metabolic cascade under cobalamin limitation that affected the central methionine cycle, transsulfuration pathway, and composition of osmolyte pools. In T. pseudonana, 5’-methylthioadenosine decreased under low cobalamin conditions, suggesting a disruption in the diatom’s polyamine biosynthesis. Furthermore, two acylcarnitines accumulated under low cobalamin, suggesting the limited use of an adenosylcobalamin-dependent enzyme, methylmalonyl CoA mutase. Overall, these changes in metabolite pools yield insight into the metabolic consequences of cobalamin limitation in diatoms and suggest that cobalamin availability may have consequences for microbial interactions that are based on metabolite production by phytoplankton.