UV-acclimation responses in natural populations of cyanobacteria (Calothrix sp.)

Jesse G. Dillon, Scott R. Miller, Richard W. Castenholz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Phenotypic acclimation to changing conditions is typically thought to be beneficial to organisms in the environment. UV radiation is an important parameter affecting photosynthetic organisms in natural environments. We measured the response of photosynthetic carbon fixation in populations of cyanobacteria inhabiting a hot spring following acclimation to different UV treatments. These two very closely related populations of cyanobacteria, differing in their content of the extracellular UV-screening pigment scytonemin, were acclimated in situ under natural solar irradiance modified by filters that excluded both UVA/B, only UVB or transmitted both UVA/B. Cells from each preacclimation treatment were subsequently assayed for photosynthetic performance under all UV conditions (incubation treatment) giving a two-factor experimental design for each population. No acclimation filter treatment effects were observed even after two months under different acclimation treatments. This suggests that UV photoacclimation does not occur in either of these populations, regardless of the presence of scytonemin. By contrast, cells showed significant UV-inhibition during 1 h incubations under full sun. The population with high levels of scytonemin usually had lower rates of photosynthetic carbon fixation than the scytonemin-lacking population. However, the degree of UV inhibition, especially UVA inhibition, was higher for the cells without scytonemin pigment. These results suggest that closely related natural cyanobacterial populations respond differently to natural irradiance conditions and may be adopting different strategies of UV tolerance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-483
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2003


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