Associations among ribosomal (r)DNA intergenic spacer length, growth rate, and C:N:P stoichiometry in the genus Daphnia

Lawrence J. Weider, Karen L. Glenn, Marcia Kyle, James J. Elser

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The growth rate hypothesis (GRH) proposes that variation in organismal C:N:P ratios is associated with growth rate due to differential allocation to P-rich ribosomal RNA to support growth. A further extension of the GRH proposes that this variation is associated with the structure of ribosomal (r)DNA genes (e.g., promoter-enhancer sequences in the rDNA intergenic spacer [IGS]) that influence the production rate of rRNA. To test these ideas, we examined growth rate, rDNA structure, RNA:DNA ratios, and elemental composition (C:N:P) in multiple clones of three Daphnia species (pulex, pulicaria, magna) in controlled laboratory experiments. Results show that a portion of the rDNA motif, consisting primarily of the IGS, shows considerable interspecific and intraspecific length variation. Significant interspecific differences in all parameters were found, while significant intraspecific (clone) effects were detected only for RNA:DNA ratios and growth rate. As predicted by the GRH, there were significant positive correlations between RNA:DNA ratio and either growth rate or rDNA/IGS length, and a significant positive correlation between rDNA/IGS length and growth rate, when clonal means for all three species were examined. However, no clear-cut relationships between RNA:DNA and either C:P or N:P were observed for any of the three species. Likewise, no discernible intraspecific relationships between growth rate and either C:P or N:P were detected. These preliminary findings suggest that further study of elemental composition, nucleic acid content, and growth rates of organisms may lead to a clearer understanding of the role of stoichiometric constraints in influencing the ecology and evolution of natural populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1417-1423
Number of pages7
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number4 II
StatePublished - Jul 2004


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