Allelochemicals of Alexandrium minutum: Kinetics of membrane disruption and photosynthesis inhibition in a co-occurring diatom

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Harmful Algae


Allelopathy is an efficient strategy by which some microalgae can outcompete other species. Allelochemicals from the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium minutum have deleterious effects on diatoms, inhibiting metabolism and photosynthesis and therefore give a competitive advantage to the dinoflagellate. The precise mechanisms of allelochemical interactions and the molecular target of allelochemicals remain however unknown. To understand the mechanisms, the short-term effects of A. minutum allelochemicals on the physiology of the diatom Chaetoceros muelleri were investigated. The effects of a culture filtrate were measured on the diatom cytoplasmic membrane integrity (polarity and permeability) using flow-cytometry and on the photosynthetic performance using fluorescence and absorption spectroscopy. Within 10 min, the unknown allelochemicals induced a depolarization of the cytoplasmic membranes and an impairment of photosynthesis through the inhibition of the plastoquinone-mediated electron transfer between photosystem II and cytochrome b f. At longer time of exposure, the cytoplasmic membranes were permeable and the integrity of photosystems I, II and cytochrome b f was compromised. Our demonstration of the essential role of membranes in this allelochemical interaction provides new insights for the elucidation of the nature of the allelochemicals. The relationship between cytoplasmic membranes and the inhibition of the photosynthetic electron transfer remains however unclear and warrants further investigation. 6 6

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European Research Council



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