Coccolithophores are calcifying microalgae that carry characteristic calcite platelets (coccoliths) on their surfaces. Most coccolithophore species exhibit diploid and haploid life cycle stages, each adjusted to different environmental conditions. The diploid life cycle stage of the coccolithophore is heavily calcifying with calcification rates that exceed the rates of photosynthesis. Haploid life-cycle stages are often weakly calcifying, generating significantly less H+ from the intracellular calcification reaction. We show how these different cellular “H+ burdens” require substantially different physiological molecular strategies to regulate intracellular pH under changing environmental conditions. Voltage-gated H+ channels (Hv) have been shown to play a role in the release of H+ in the diploid life cycle previously (Taylor 2011). Combining scanning electron microscopy, electrophysiology, gene expression approaches and physiological measurements, we here show a direct link between the function of proton channels and coccolith formation of the diploid but not the haploid life-cycle stage. Our data also indicate how the different mechanisms for acid-base regulation of the diploid and haploid life-cycle stages may result in different sensitivities towards ocean acidification.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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