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J Exp Biol. 2000 Nov;203(Pt 22):3445-57.

Sources and mechanisms of inorganic carbon transport for coral calcification and photosynthesis.

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Observatoire Océanologique Européen, Centre Scientifique de Monaco, Avenue Saint-Martin, MC 98000 Monaco, Principality of Monaco.


The sources and mechanisms of inorganic carbon transport for scleractinian coral calcification and photosynthesis were studied using a double labelling technique with H(14)CO(3) and (45)Ca. Clones of Stylophora pistillata that had developed into microcolonies were examined. Compartmental and pharmacological analyses of the distribution of(45)Ca and H(14)CO(3) in the coelenteron, tissues and skeleton were performed in dark or light conditions or in the presence of various seawater HCO(3)(-) concentrations. For calcification, irrespective of the lighting conditions, the major source of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) is metabolic CO(2) (70-75% of total CaCO(3) deposition), while only 25-30% originates from the external medium (seawater carbon pool). These results are in agreement with the observation that metabolic CO(2) production in the light is at least six times greater than is required for calcification. This source is dependent on carbonic anhydrase activity because it is sensitive to ethoxyzolamide. Seawater DIC is transferred from the external medium to the coral skeleton by two different pathways: from sea water to the coelenteron, the passive paracellular pathway is largely sufficient, while a DIDS-sensitive transcellular pathway appears to mediate the flux across calicoblastic cells. Irrespective of the source, an anion exchanger performs the secretion of DIC at the site of calcification. Furthermore, a fourfold light-enhanced calcification of Stylophora pistillata microcolonies was measured. This stimulation was only effective after a lag of 10 min. These results are discussed in the context of light-enhanced calcification. Characterisation of the DIC supply for symbiotic dinoflagellate photosynthesis demonstrated the presence of a DIC pool within the tissues. The size of this pool was dependent on the lighting conditions, since it increased 39-fold after 3 h of illumination. Passive DIC equilibration through oral tissues between sea water and the coelenteric cavity is insufficient to supply this DIC pool, suggesting that there is an active transepithelial absorption of inorganic carbon sensitive to DIDS, ethoxyzolamide and iodide. These results confirm the presence of CO(2)-concentrating mechanisms in coral cells. The tissue pool is not, however, used as a source for calcification since no significant lag phase in the incorporation of external seawater DIC was measured.

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