Adaptation and acclimation of photosynthetic microorganisms to permanently cold environments

TitleAdaptation and acclimation of photosynthetic microorganisms to permanently cold environments
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsMorgan-Kiss, RM, Priscu, JC, Pocock, T, Gudynaite-Savitch, L, Huner, NPA
JournalMicrobial and Molecular Biology Review
Date Published03/2006

Persistently cold environments constitute one of our world's largest ecosystems, and microorganisms dominate the biomass and metabolic activity in these extreme environments. The stress of low temperatures on life is exacerbated in organisms that rely on photoautrophic production of organic carbon and energy sources. Phototrophic organisms must coordinate temperature-independent reactions of light absorption and photochemistry with temperature-dependent processes of electron transport and utilization of energy sources through growth and metabolism. Despite this conundrum, phototrophic microorganisms thrive in all cold ecosystems described and (together with chemoautrophs) provide the base of autotrophic production in low-temperature food webs. Psychrophilic (organisms with a requirement for low growth temperatures) and psychrotolerant (organisms tolerant of low growth temperatures) photoautotrophs rely on low-temperature acclimative and adaptive strategies that have been described for other low-temperature-adapted heterotrophic organisms, such as cold-active proteins and maintenance of membrane fluidity. In addition, photoautrophic organisms possess other strategies to balance the absorption of light and the transduction of light energy to stored chemical energy products (NADPH and ATP) with downstream consumption of photosynthetically derived energy products at low temperatures. Lastly, differential adaptive and acclimative mechanisms exist in phototrophic microorganisms residing in low-temperature environments that are exposed to constant low-light environments versus high-light- and high-UV-exposed phototrophic assemblages.