The role of cell-surface-bound phosphatases in species competition within natural phytoplankton assemblage: an in situ experiment
AbstractDespite it is widely acknowledged that the ability to hydrolyze dissolved organic matter using extracellular phosphatases is diverse in freshwater phytoplankton, the competition within single species related to presence and quantity of cell-surface-bound phosphatases has not been examined in natural conditions yet. Here, we studied phytoplankton species competition in a freshwater reservoir during an in situ experiment. A natural plankton community, with the exclusion of large zooplankton, was enclosed in permeable dialysis bags inside two large containers of different bioavailable phosphate concentrations. Phytoplankton species biomass and the abundance of bacteria were determined in purpose to compare the development of enclosed microbial communities. Total and cell-surface-bound phosphatase activities in the phytoplankton were investigated using the Fluorescently Labelled Enzyme Activity (FLEA) technique that allows for direct microscopic detection of phosphatase-positive cells and, with image cytometry, enables quantification of phosphatase hydrolytic capacity. Production of extracellular phosphatases was not completely inhibited or stopped in the phosphate-enriched environment, phytoplankton cells only showed the activity less often. Under the phosphate-nonenriched conditions, the production of phosphatases was enhanced, but active species did not proliferate amongst phytoplankton assemblage. Further, specific growth rates of the phosphatase-positive species in the non-enriched environment were lower than the same phosphatase-positive species in phosphate-enriched environment. Interestingly, the phosphatase-positive cells of Ankyra ancora increased their size in both treatments equally, although the population in phosphate-enriched environment grew much faster and the cell-specific phosphatase activity was lower. We hypothesize that brand new daughter cells had sufficient phosphorus reserves and therefore did not employ extracellular phosphatases until they matured and needed extra bioavailable phosphorus to support their metabolism before cell division. Based on presented in situ experiment, we propose that the ability to hydrolyze organic polymers and particles with cell-surface-bound phosphatases is advantageous for longer persistence of given population in a phosphate-scarce environment; although phosphatase-positive species cannot dominate the reservoir phytoplankton solely because of specific phosphorus-scavenging strategy.
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