The chemical cue tetrabromopyrrole induces rapid cellular stress and mortality in phytoplankton.

Academic Article


  • Eukaryotic phytoplankton contribute to the flow of elements through marine food webs, biogeochemical cycles, and Earth's climate. Therefore, how phytoplankton die is a critical determinate of the flow and fate of nutrients. While heterotroph grazing and viral infection contribute to phytoplankton mortality, recent evidence suggests that bacteria-derived cues also control phytoplankton lysis. Here, we report exposure to nanomolar concentrations of 2,3,4,5-tetrabromopyrrole (TBP), a brominated chemical cue synthesized by marine γ-proteobacteria, resulted in mortality of seven phylogenetically-diverse phytoplankton species. A comparison of nine compounds of marine-origin containing a range of cyclic moieties and halogenation indicated that both a single pyrrole ring and increased bromination were most lethal to the coccolithophore, Emiliania huxleyi. TBP also rapidly induced the production of reactive oxygen species and the release of intracellular calcium stores, both of which can trigger the activation of cellular death pathways. Mining of the Ocean Gene Atlas indicated that TBP biosynthetic machinery is globally distributed throughout the water column in coastal areas. These findings suggest that bacterial cues play multiple functions in regulating phytoplankton communities by inducing biochemical changes associated with cellular death. Chemically-induced lysis by bacterial infochemicals is yet another variable that must be considered when modeling oceanic nutrient dynamics.
  • Authors

  • Whalen, Kristen E
  • Kirby, Christopher
  • Nicholson, Russell M
  • O'Reilly, Mia
  • Moore, Bradley S
  • Harvey, Elizabeth
  • Publication Date

  • October 19, 2018
  • Published In

  • Scientific Reports  Journal
  • Keywords

  • Bacteria
  • Biosynthetic Pathways
  • Calcium
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Halogens
  • Haptophyta
  • Inhibitory Concentration 50
  • Phytoplankton
  • Pyrroles
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 15498
  • Volume

  • 8
  • Issue

  • 1