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ISME J. 2018 Jun;12(7):1682-1693. doi: 10.1038/s41396-018-0073-5. Epub 2018 Feb 20.

Iron and phosphorus deprivation induce sociality in the marine bloom-forming cyanobacterium Trichodesmium.

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Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, 529002, Israel.
Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, The Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boqer Campus 84990, Midreshet Ben-Gurion, Israel.
Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, 529002, Israel.


Trichodesmium spp. are diazotrophic cyanobacteria that exist as single filaments (trichomes) and as macroscopic colonies of varying shapes formed by aggregating trichomes. The causes and dynamics of colony formation and disassociation are not yet elucidated. we demonstrate that limited availability of dissolved phosphorus (P) or iron (Fe) stimulated trichome mobility and induced colony formation in Trichodesmium erythraeum IMS101 cultures. The specific nutrient limitation differentially affected the rate of colony formation and morphology of the colonies. Fe starvation promoted rapid colony formation (10-48 h from depletion) while 5-7 days were required for colonies to form in P-depleted cultures. Video analyses confirmed that the probability of trichomes to cluster increased from 12 to 35% when transferred from nutrient replete to Fe-depleted conditions. Moreover, the probability for Fe-depleted aggregates to remain colonial increased to 50% from only 10% in nutrient replete cultures. These colonies were also characterized by stronger attachment forces between the trichomes. Enrichment of nutrient-depleted cultures with the limited nutrient-stimulated colony dissociation into single trichomes. We postulate that limited P and Fe availability enhance colony formation of Trichodesmium and primarily control the abundance and distribution of its different morphologies in the nutrient-limited surface ocean.

[Available on 2019-07-01]

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