The Campagna Group has published a collaborative piece titled “Nitrogen flux into metabolites and microcystins changes in response to different nitrogen sources in Microcystis aeruginosa NIES-843” in Environmental Biology.
The over-enrichment of nitrogen (N) in the environment has contributed to severe and recurring harmful cyanobacterial blooms, especially by the non-N2 -fixing Microcystis spp. N chemical speciation influences cyanobacterial growth, persistence and the production of the hepatotoxin microcystin, but the physiological mechanisms to explain these observations remain unresolved.
Stable-labelled isotopes and metabolomics were employed to address the influence of nitrate, ammonium, and urea on cellular physiology and production of microcystins in Microcystis aeruginosa NIES-843. Global metabolic changes were driven by both N speciation and diel cycling. Tracing 15 N-labelled nitrate, ammonium, and urea through the metabolome revealed N uptake, regardless of species, was linked to C assimilation.
The production of amino acids, like arginine, and other N-rich compounds corresponded with greater turnover of microcystins in cells grown on urea compared to nitrate and ammonium. However, 15 N was incorporated into microcystins from all N sources. The differences in N flux were attributed to the energetic efficiency of growth on each N source.
While N in general plays an important role in sustaining biomass, these data show that N-speciation induces physiological changes that culminate in differences in global metabolism, cellular microcystin quotas and congener composition.