Morphological and isotopic changes of heterocystous cyanobacteria in response to N2 partial pressure.

Abstract:

:Earth's atmospheric composition has changed significantly over geologic time. Many redox active atmospheric constituents have left evidence of their presence, while inert constituents such as dinitrogen gas (N2 ) are more elusive. In this study, we examine two potential biological indicators of atmospheric N2 : the morphological and isotopic signatures of heterocystous cyanobacteria. Biological nitrogen fixation constitutes the primary source of fixed nitrogen to the global biosphere and is catalyzed by the oxygen-sensitive enzyme nitrogenase. To protect this enzyme, some filamentous cyanobacteria restrict nitrogen fixation to microoxic cells (heterocysts) while carrying out oxygenic photosynthesis in vegetative cells. Heterocysts terminally differentiate in a pattern that is maintained as the filaments grow, and nitrogen fixation imparts a measurable isotope effect, creating two biosignatures that have previously been interrogated under modern N2 partial pressure (pN2 ) conditions. Here, we examine the effect of variable pN2 on these biosignatures for two species of the filamentous cyanobacterium Anabaena. We provide the first in vivo estimate of the intrinsic isotope fractionation factor of Mo-nitrogenase (εfix  = -2.71 ± 0.09‰) and show that, with decreasing pN2 , the net nitrogen isotope fractionation decreases for both species, while the heterocyst spacing decreases for Anabaena cylindrica and remains unchanged for Anabaena variabilis. These results are consistent with the nitrogen fixation mechanisms available in the two species. Application of these quantifiable effects to the geologic record may lead to new paleobarometric measurements for pN2 , ultimately contributing to a better understanding of Earth's atmospheric evolution.

journal_name

Geobiology

journal_title

Geobiology

authors

Silverman SN,Kopf SH,Bebout BM,Gordon R,Som SM

doi

10.1111/gbi.12312

subject

Has Abstract

pub_date

2019-01-01 00:00:00

pages

60-75

issue

1

eissn

1472-4677

issn

1472-4669

journal_volume

17

pub_type

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