Autotrophic and heterotrophic acquisition of carbon and nitrogen by a mixotrophic chrysophyte established through stable isotope analysis
Terrado, R.; Pasulka, A.L.; Lie, A.A-Y.; Orphan, V.J.; Heidelberg, K.B.; Caron, D.A.
Isme Journal 11(9): 2022-2034
ISSN/ISBN: 1751-7362 PMID: 28524870 DOI: 10.1038/ismej.2017.68
Collectively, phagotrophic algae (mixotrophs) form a functional continuum of nutritional modes between autotrophy and heterotrophy, but the specific physiological benefits of mixotrophic nutrition differ among taxa. Ochromonas spp. are ubiquitous chrysophytes that exhibit high nutritional flexibility, although most species generally fall towards the heterotrophic end of the mixotrophy spectrum. We assessed the sources of carbon and nitrogen in Ochromonas sp. strain BG-1 growing mixotrophically via short-term stable isotope probing. An axenic culture was grown in the presence of either heat-killed bacteria enriched with 15N and 13C, or unlabeled heat-killed bacteria and labeled inorganic substrates (13C-bicarbonate and 15N-ammonium). The alga exhibited high growth rates (up to 2 divisions per day) only until heat-killed bacteria were depleted. NanoSIMS and bulk IRMS isotope analyses revealed that Ochromonas obtained 84-99% of its carbon and 88-95% of its nitrogen from consumed bacteria. The chrysophyte assimilated inorganic 13C-carbon and 15N-nitrogen when bacterial abundances were very low, but autotrophic (photosynthetic) activity was insufficient to support net population growth of the alga. Our use of nanoSIMS represents its first application towards the study of a mixotrophic alga, enabling a better understanding and quantitative assessment of carbon and nutrient acquisition by this species.