Perception of Environmental Signals by a Marine Diatom

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Science  30 Jun 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5475, pp. 2363-2366
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5475.2363

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Diatoms are a key component of marine ecosystems and are extremely important for the biogeochemical cycling of silica and as contributors to global fixed carbon. However, the answers to fundamental questions such as what diatoms can sense in their environment, how they respond to external signals, and what factors control their life strategies are largely unknown. We generated transgenic diatom cells containing the calcium-sensitive photoprotein aequorin to determine whether changes in calcium homeostasis are used to respond to relevant environmental stimuli. Our results reveal sensing systems for detecting and responding to fluid motion (shear stress), osmotic stress, and iron, a key nutrient that controls diatom abundance in the ocean.

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