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Microb Ecol. 1996 Nov;32(3):231-45.

Carbon Cycling: Molecular Regulation of Photosynthetic Carbon Fixation

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Department of Marine Science, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, FL 33701, USA


Photosynthetic carbon fixation by phytoplankton is a key component of the global carbon cycle. Our understanding of the types of picoplankton and ultraphytoplankton involved in this process is evolving. However, mechanisms of regulation of photosynthetic carbon fixation in the oceans are poorly understood. All phytoplankton fix CO2 by reductive carboxylation employing the enzyme ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase (RuBPCase). The sequence of the gene encoding the large subunit of the enzyme (rbcL) has been relatively conserved, with two major evolutionary groups among oxygenic photoautrotrophs: the cyanobacteria/green algae/higher plants and the chromophytic algae. Gene probes made from representative members of these groups have been used to study the transcriptional regulation of RuBPCase in natural phytoplankton populations. Levels of rbcL mRNA correlated with rates of photosynthetic carbon fixation. A diel pattern in both carbon fixation and levels of rbcL mRNA was observed, with greatest values for both during daylight hours. This data supports transcriptional regulation as a major mechanism for regulation of carbon fixation in the oceans. This approach can be used to measure expression of conserved genes encoding other important geochemical functions.


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