Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Research Publications: UM-SG-RS-2003-01


Cell-surface proteolytic activity of photosynthetic dinoflagellates.




Stoecker, DK; Gustafson, DE


Aquatic Microbial Ecology 30(2):175-183



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We used the artificial substrate L-leucine 7-amido-4-methyl-coumarin (Leu-AMC) to measure leucine aminopeptidase (LAP) of dinoflagellates. Axenic cultures of Alexandrium tamarense, Heterocapsa triquetra and Prorocentrum minimum had considerable LAP. associated with the cell surface. In non-axenic cultures of Akashiwo, sanguinea, Gonyaulax grindleyi, Gyrodinium uncatenum, Karlodinium micrum and P. minimum, 60 to 99% of the total LAP activity was found in the > 5 mum fraction, indicating association with the dinoflagellates rather than with bacteria. At 20°C, estimated activity ranged from 0.04 pmol cell-1 h-1 in the smallest species, K. micrum, to 2.56 pmol cell-1 h-1 in the largest species, G. grindleyi. Activity per cell could be predicted from cell size. During a mixed species dinoflagellate bloom in the Choptank River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, total LAP activity was positively correlated with dinoflagellate concentration. In 'red-water' samples, up to 76% of LAP activity was in the > 2 mum fraction. We calculate that in red-water events, dinoflagellates may account for 50% or more of the in situ LAP activity. Cell-surf ace proteases may play a role in nutrition of mixotrophic dinoflagellates by providing amino acids for assimilation. Alternatively, released amino acids may be degraded by cell-surface amino acid oxidases to provide ammonium which can be taken up as a source of nitrogen.

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