Endosymbiotic dinoflagellates pump iron: differences in iron and other trace metal needs among the Symbiodiniaceae

Hannah G. Reich, Irene B. Rodriguez, Todd C. LaJeunesse, Tung Yuan Ho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Iron (Fe) is essential to the physiology and growth of marine phytoplankton. It remains unclear how important iron is to the functional ecology of symbiotic dinoflagellates in the family Symbiodiniaceae, and whether limitations in iron ultimately affect the health and productivity of coral hosts, especially during episodes of ocean warming. Five Symbiodiniaceae species (spanning three genera) were used to investigate the effects of reduced iron availability on cell growth and the acquisition of other trace metals. When grown under iron replete conditions, intracellular iron quotas (content) reflected a large biochemical demand and ranged from 7.8 to 23.1 mmol Fe mol Phosphorus−1. Symbiodinium necroappetens was the only species that acclimated and maintained high growth rates while subjected to the lowest iron treatment (250 pM Fe′). Cultures surviving under low iron concentrations experienced changes in cellular concentrations (and presumably their use as cofactors) of other trace metals (e.g., zinc, copper, cobalt, manganese, nickel, molybdenum, vanadium), in ways that were species-specific, and possibly related to the natural ecology of each species. These changes in trace metal contents may have cascading effects on vital biochemical functions such as metalloenzyme activities, photosynthetic performance, and macronutrient assimilation. Furthermore, these species-specific responses to iron limitation provide a basis for investigations on how iron availability effects cellular processes among species and genera of Symbiodiniaceae, and ultimately how metal shortages modulate the response of coral–algal mutualisms to physiological stressors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)915-927
Number of pages13
JournalCoral Reefs
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aquatic Science


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