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Microb Ecol. 2007 Jan;53(1):74-81. Epub 2006 Dec 22.

Sterol composition of freshwater algivorous ciliates does not resemble dietary composition.

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Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei, Müggelseedamm 301, D-12587, Berlin, Germany.


Algivorous ciliates represent an important link in freshwater food webs, as they transfer energy and biochemical matter from their algal prey to mesozooplankton predators. However, it is still unknown how dietary composition influences the biochemical composition of ciliates. We analyzed the sterol composition of the algivorous ciliates Balanion planctonicum and Urotricha farcta and compared it to the sterol composition of their diet--the cryptomonad Cryptomonas phaseolus. The sterol composition of the ciliates did not resemble that of their algal diet. Ergosterol [(22E)-ergosta-5,7,22-trien-3beta-ol] was the sterol in highest concentration in C. phaseolus, whereas stigmasterol [(24S)-24-ethylcholesta-5,22E-dien-3beta-ol] was dominant in both B. planctonicum and U. farcta. Moreover, the occasionally higher sterol concentrations in the ciliates than in their algal diet suggest sterol accumulation by the ciliates. We conclude that dietary sterol composition influences the composition of the two algivorous ciliates studied, but species-specific differences in metabolism probably determine the ultimate sterol composition of the ciliates.

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