Exopolymer production as a function of cell permeability and death in a diatom (Thalassiosira weissflogii) and a cyanobacterium (Synechococcus elongatus) Academic Article uri icon


  • Exopolymer particles are found throughout the ocean and play a significant biogeochemical role in carbon cycling. Transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) are composed of acid polysaccharides, and Coomassie staining particles (CSP) are proteins. TEPs have been extensively studied in the ocean, while CSP have been largely overlooked. The objective of this research was to determine the role of stress and cell permeability in the formation of TEP and CSP. The diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii and cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus were grown in batch cultures and exposed to hydrogen peroxide (0, 10, and 100 μM) as an environmental stressor. There was no correlation between TEP and CSP concentrations, indicating that they are different populations of particles rather than different chemical components of the same particles. CSP concentrations were not affected by hydrogen peroxide concentration and did not correlate with indicators of stress and cell death. In contrast, TEP concentrations in both taxa were correlated with a decrease in the effective quantum yield of photosystem II, increased activity of caspase-like enzymes, and an increase in the proportion of the population with permeable cell membranes, indicating that TEP production was associated with the process of cell death. These data show that different environmental factors and physiological processes affected the production of TEP and CSP by phytoplankton. TEP and CSP are separate populations of exopolymer particles with potentially different biogeochemical roles in the ocean.

author list (cited authors)

  • Thornton, D., & Chen, J.

citation count

  • 10

publication date

  • November 2016