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Surprises from the ocean: Marine plankton and ocean pH
Date:6/21/2011

n as metabolic acidosis" says Alison Taylor, article author. Cells use a variety of pH-regulatory processes to alleviate the burden of excessive H+ ions. The team showed that coccolithophores dispose of unwanted H+ by allowing them to exit cells through specialised protein pores, or ion channels, that are selectively permeable to H+. This process keeps the pH inside the cells at acceptable levels and allows coccolithophores to produce their calcium carbonate scales.

The team identified the gene that encodes for the H+ channel protein. "These H+ channels belong to a unique group of transport proteins that were discovered quite recently in certain types of animal cells that experience metabolic acidosis" explains Glen Wheeler, co-author of the study. "It turns out that H+ channel genes are also present in other groups of phytoplankton [which] belong to groups that are not closely related to either plants or animals. Our discovery shows that H+ channels are more widespread than previously thought and that they serve a critical function in regulating cellular pH during a range of cellular processes in evolutionarily distant organisms" says Wheeler.

"A key finding of the work is that H+ channel activity in coccolithophores is dependent on external pH", explains Colin Brownlee of the Marine Biological Association. "The findings will ultimately allow a better understanding of how [phytoplankton] respond to changes in ocean chemistry due to increased dissolution of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the oceans' surface waters."


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Contact: Bryan Ghosh
bghosh@plos.org
44-122-344-2837
Public Library of Science
Source:Eurekalert

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