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Use of the high‐affinity phosphate transporter gene, pstS, as an indicator for phosphorus stress in the marine diazotroph Crocosphaera watsonii (Chroococcales, Cyanobacteria)

Pereira, Nicole, Shilova, Irina N., Zehr, Jonathan P.
Journal of phycology 2019 v.55 no.4 pp. 752-761
ABC transporters, Chroococcales, bioavailability, biomarkers, carbon, genes, inorganic phosphorus, light intensity, nitrogen, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, nutrient deficiencies, phosphates, stress response, transcription (genetics)
The marine diazotroph Crocosphaera watsonii provides fixed carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) to open‐ocean regimes, where nutrient deficiency controls productivity. The growth of Crocosphaera can be limited by low phosphorus (P) concentrations in these oligotrophic environments. Biomarkers such as the high‐affinity ABC transporter phosphate‐binding gene, pstS, are commonly used to monitor when such organisms are under P stress; however, transcriptional regulation of these markers is often complex and not well‐understood. In this study, we interrogated changes in pstS transcript levels in C. watsonii cells under P starvation, and in response to added dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP), dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP), and changing light levels. We observed elevated relative pstS transcript levels in C. watsonii WH8501 at DIP concentrations below 60 and above 20 nmol · L⁻¹. Transcript levels were suppressed by both inorganic and bioavailable organic phosphorus; however, the P stress response was more sensitive to DIP than DOP sources. Increasing light intensity resulted in increased relative pstS transcript abundances independently of low external P, and seemed to exacerbate the physiological effects of P stress. The variable response to different P compounds and rapid and transient influence of high light on pstS transcript abundances suggests that pstS is an indicator of internal P status in Crocosphaera.