Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Out of the Ocean – How algae convert sea water into chalk shells

12.05.2016

An international research team headed by André Scheffel from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology and by scientists from the Biomaterials department of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces analyzed the chalk production in a group of marine algae known as coccolithophores. These algae have a strong influence on our climate and their fossilized chalk products give information about past environmental conditions. The researchers found a so far unknown cellular component, which appears to be the main calcium hub in the cells and to influence the incorporation of environmental traces into the chalk. Their research is published in the journal Nature Communications

Algae are true all-rounders. In East-Asian countries they are a staple food. But this is not all they have to offer. They are fascinating and highly adaptable organisms, living almost everywhere there is water – in the ocean, in lakes, or even in puddles and in the snow. With ca. 40.000 known species, algae play an essential role in the environment and for humanity.


Emiliana huxleyi and other marine algae resides within chalk shells called coccoliths. Fossil coccoliths open a window to the climate in the past while contemporary coccoliths influences our climate.

André Scheffel, MPI-MP

The marine microalga Emiliania huxleyi is one of the key phytoplankton species and lives in a solid house assembled from chalky platelets which scientists refer to as coccoliths. After death of the algae, the chalky shell sinks to the ocean floor and becomes an abundant component of sea-floor carbonates.

Over millions of years these shells have accumulated to form thick sediment layers, with the chalk cliff of the German island of Rügen being a prominent example. Due to the incorporation of trace elements from the waters surrounding the cells into the chalk structures, which are produced inside the cells, the chemical composition of these sediments can give information about the climate and environment of the past.

Nevertheless, the mechanism of chalk production in calcareous algae (“coccolithophores”) is poorly understood so far. An international research team led by André Scheffel from the MPIMP and Damien Faivre from the MPICI in Potsdam-Golm has now analyzed the processes of chalk production in the dominant marine alga Emiliana huxleyi.

This unicellular alga produces one chalk disk after the other inside the cell and moves them outside upon completion. In this way the outer shell is produced. The production of each chalk scale takes place inside a membrane-bound compartment, called the coccolith vesicle.

Based on microscopic and spectroscopic techniques the team was able to identify an additional, to date undiscovered calcium reservoir, which feeds coccolith formation with calcium and presumably the impurities that have been detected in mature coccolith chalk. Besides calcium this compartment contains other elements, including polyphosphates, which enable accumulation of calcium without its precipitation.

“The discovery of this new component in the calcium metabolism of the alga Emiliania huxleyi gives new opportunities to understand the production of coccoliths and the integration of trace elements”, explains Sanja Sviben, first author of this study. The insights emerging from this study may bring the coccolith composition and seawater chemistry into a mechanistic framework and help in understanding why and how calcification will be affected by changing environmental conditions.

Beside the reconstruction of past environmental conditions, it will be possible to develop predictive models of the future of calcification and the corresponding impact on climate. “Our results can be used to clarify how ocean acidification can influence the chalk production and how this process can adapt to future conditions”, describes André Scheffel.

Being able to predict those future changes is important, due to the impact coccolithophores have on the global carbon cycle. They bind million tons of carbon dioxide yearly, removing the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. Each chalky coccolith that ends up on the sea-floor removes carbon from the atmosphere-ocean cycle for thousands of years.

The acidification of the oceans due to raising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations poses a threat to biological chalk formation and the consequences of this on our climate are poorly understood.

Contact
Dr. André Scheffel
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology
Tel. 0331/567 8358
scheffel@mpimp-golm.mpg.de

Dr. Ulrike Glaubitz
Public Relations
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology
Tel. 0331/567 8275
glaubitz@mpimp-golm.mpg.de
http://www.mpimp-golm.mpg.de

Katja Schulze
Public Relations
Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces
Tel. 0331/567 9203
katja.schulze@mpikg.mpg.de
http://www.mpikg.mpg.de

Original publication
Sviben, S., Gal., A., Hood., M., A., Bertinetti, L., Politi, Y., Bennet, M., Krishnamoorthy, P., Schertel, A., Wirth, R., Sorrentino, A., Pereiso, E., Faivre, D., Scheffel, A.
A vacuole-like compartment concentrates a disordered calcium phase in a key coccolithophorid alga.
Nature Communications, 14. April 2016, doi: 10.1038/ncomms11228

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.mpimp-golm.mpg.de/2064848/pm-kalkalgen

Dipl. Ing. agr. Ursula Ross-Stitt | Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Pflanzenphysiologie

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

nachricht Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers shoot for success with simulations of laser pulse-material interactions

29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling

29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

As sea level rises, much of Honolulu and Waikiki vulnerable to groundwater inundation

29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>