What is it about?

Phytoplankton drives most of the carbon pumping of the world ocean through photosynthesis. Synechococcus picocyanobacteria, a very abundant marine phytoplankton, have adapted this light utilization process to colonize different thermal niches. At high temperature, tropical Synechococcus induce strong synthesis of most photosynthetic complexes and can thus considerably increase growth. By contrast, subpolar Synechococcus grow more slowly but are capable of surviving at low temperature. To do so, they need the photoprotective orange carotenoid protein, and we show that temperature has been a major factor in the molecular evolution of this protein in the oceans. Our study can allow the improving of current models predicting the changes in carbon fluxes in a warming ocean.

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Why is it important?

Photosynthesis is among the most fundamental biological processes on Earth because it regulates the climate and allows the synthesis of organic matter from inorganic molecules. Understanding how photosynthesis has evolved in the ocean, especially with regard to temperature variations, is essential to understand the ecological consequences of the ongoing climate changes.

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This page is a summary of: Marine Synechococcus picocyanobacteria: Light utilization across latitudes, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 2021, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2111300118.
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