13 June 2024
Antarctic algae B12 adaptability aids climate change

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Antarctic algae B12 adaptability has implications for climate change, life in the Southern Ocean. Vitamin B12 deficiency in people can cause a slew of health problems and even become fatal. Until now, the same were thought to impact certain types of algae, as well. A new study has examined the algae P. antarctica’s (P. antarctica) exposure to a matrix of iron and vitamin B12 conditions. Results show that this algae has the ability to survive without B12, something that computer analysis of genome sequences had not indicated.

B12 Adaptability in Antarctic Algae: A New Perspective on Vitamin B12 Utilization



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Introduction:

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for humans and many other organisms. It plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, including the production of red blood cells, DNA synthesis, and nerve function. However, certain types of algae, including Phaeocystis antarctica (P. antarctica), were previously thought to be unable to survive without vitamin B12. A recent study has shed new light on the adaptability of P. antarctica, revealing its ability to thrive in low vitamin B12 conditions.

B12 Adaptability of P. antarctica: Unique Flexibility in Vitamin B12 Utilization

Flexibility in Vitamin B12 Utilization:

Unlike other polar phytoplankton, P. antarctica possesses a remarkable ability to adapt to varying levels of vitamin B12. It can survive and grow even in environments where vitamin B12 is scarce. This adaptation is attributed to the presence of a fusion protein called B12-independent methionine synthase (MetE).

MetE: The Key to Adaptability:

The MetE protein enables P. antarctica to synthesize the essential amino acid methionine, which is necessary for protein synthesis and other cellular processes. The MetE protein can function independently of vitamin B12, allowing P. antarctica to bypass the requirement for this nutrient.

B12 Adaptability and Implications for the Southern Ocean Ecosystem

Potential Advantage in Early Spring:

The adaptability of P. antarctica gives it a potential advantage during the early austral spring. During this time, bacteria that produce vitamin B12 are less abundant. P. antarctica’s ability to thrive in low vitamin B12 conditions allows it to bloom earlier than other phytoplankton species that rely solely on vitamin B12.

Role in the Carbon Cycle:

P. antarctica plays a significant role in the Southern Ocean’s carbon cycle. It absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) and releases oxygen through photosynthesis. As the Southern Ocean warms due to climate change, more iron is entering the coastal regions from melting glaciers. Iron is a limiting nutrient for phytoplankton growth, and its increased availability could lead to increased P. antarctica blooms.

B12 as a Limiting Factor:

Vitamin B12 may become a limiting factor for P. antarctica growth as the Southern Ocean continues to warm. Climate models currently focus on iron as the primary limiting nutrient, but the role of vitamin B12 needs to be considered as well.

Conclusion:

The discovery of P. antarctica’s adaptability to low vitamin B12 conditions has important implications for our understanding of the Southern Ocean ecosystem. It highlights the resilience and adaptability of certain algae species in response to changing environmental conditions. Furthermore, it underscores the importance of considering multiple limiting factors, including vitamin B12, in predicting phytoplankton growth and carbon cycling in the Southern Ocean. This knowledge will contribute to more accurate climate models and a better understanding of the complex interactions within the Southern Ocean ecosystem.

FAQ’s

1. What is the significance of vitamin B12 for living organisms?

Vitamin B12 is essential for various bodily functions, including red blood cell production, DNA synthesis, and nerve function.

2. What is unique about Phaeocystis antarctica (P. antarctica)?

P. antarctica possesses a remarkable ability to adapt to varying levels of vitamin B12 and can survive and grow even in environments where vitamin B12 is scarce.

3. What is the key to P. antarctica’s adaptability to low vitamin B12 conditions?

The presence of a fusion protein called B12-independent methionine synthase (MetE) enables P. antarctica to synthesize the essential amino acid methionine, bypassing the requirement for vitamin B12.

4. How does P. antarctica’s adaptation impact the Southern Ocean ecosystem?

P. antarctica’s ability to thrive in low vitamin B12 conditions gives it a potential advantage during the early austral spring, allowing it to bloom earlier than other phytoplankton species. It also plays a significant role in the carbon cycle, absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) and releasing oxygen through photosynthesis.

5. Why is vitamin B12 a potential limiting factor for P. antarctica growth?

As the Southern Ocean warms due to climate change, more iron is entering the coastal regions from melting glaciers, benefiting phytoplankton growth. However, vitamin B12 may become a limiting factor for P. antarctica growth as climate models currently focus on iron as the primary limiting nutrient, neglecting the role of vitamin B12.

Links to additional Resources:

https://www.nature.com/ https://www.sciencedirect.com/ https://www.cell.com/

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Phaeocystis antarctica (algae), Methionine synthase (enzyme), Southern Ocean (ecosystem)

Phaeocystis
Phaeocystis is a genus of algae belonging to the Prymnesiophyte class and to the larger division of Haptophyta. It is a widespread marine phytoplankton and can function at a wide range of temperatures (eurythermal) and salinities (euryhaline). Members of this genus live in the open ocean, as well as in...
Read more: Phaeocystis

Methionine synthase
Methionine synthase (MS, MeSe, MTR) is primarily responsible for the regeneration of methionine from homocysteine in most individuals. In humans it is encoded by the MTR gene (5-methyltetrahydrofolate-homocysteine methyltransferase). Methionine synthase forms part of the S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) biosynthesis and regeneration cycle, and is the enzyme responsible for linking the cycle...
Read more: Methionine synthase

Southern Ocean
The Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean, comprises the southernmost waters of the world ocean, generally taken to be south of 60° S latitude and encircling Antarctica. With a size of 20,327,000 km2 (7,848,000 sq mi), it is regarded as the second-smallest of the five principal oceanic divisions:...
Read more: Southern Ocean

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