CIE Spotlight: Molecular physiology reveals ammonium uptake and related gene expression in the seagrass Zostera muelleri

Peter M.

Peter M.

Authors: Mathieu Pernice, Sutinee Sinutok, Gaurav Sablok, Audrey S. Commault, Martin Schliep, Peter I. Macreadie, Michael A. Rasheed, Peter J. Ralph

Source: Marine Environmental Research, Volume 122, Pages 126–134, December 2016

Brief summary of the paper: Seagrasses are important marine foundation species, which are presently threatened by coastal development and global change worldwide. The molecular mechanisms that drive seagrass responses to anthropogenic stresses, including elevated levels of nutrients such as ammonium, remains poorly understood.

Despite the evidence that seagrasses can assimilate ammonium by using glutamine synthetase (GS)/glutamate synthase (glutamine-oxoglutarate amidotransferase or GOGAT) cycle, the regulation of this fundamental metabolic pathway has never been studied at the gene expression level in seagrasses so far.

Here, we combine (i) reverse transcription quantitative real-time PCR (RT-qPCR) to measure expression of key genes involved in the GS/GOGAT cycle, and (ii) stable isotope labelling and mass spectrometry to investigate 15N-ammonium assimilation in the widespread Australian species Zostera muelleri subsp. capricorni (Z. muelleri).

We demonstrate that exposure to a pulse of ammonium in seawater can induce changes in GS gene expression of Z. muelleri, and further correlate these changes in gene expression with 15N-ammonium uptake rate in above- and below-ground tissue.