Compatible intracellular ion composition of the host improves carbon assimilation by Zooxanthellae in mutualistic symbioses
Cytosymbiotic algae within the host's plasma are exposed to completely different ionic conditions than microalgae living in the sea. The altered ionic gradients, in particular, could be the reason for higher in hospite carbon assimilation levels. To study the effect of varying extracellular ionic conditions on isolated zooxanthellae, their photosynthetic capacity in pure seawater was compared to that in a test medium in which the concentrations of the major inorganic ions, the pH and the osmolality were adjusted to the conditions measured in the host cytoplasm. In this test medium the ratio between oxygen evolution and carbon fixation was 1.2:1.0; in contrast, zooxanthellae in the hyperionic seawater medium showed a comparatively higher oxygen production (2.6:1.0). These results are attributed to a higher energy demand for ion regulation of the isolated algae in the hyperionic medium. Isolated cytosymbionts in seawater need more energy both for the readjustment to the original intracellular ion concentration within the host cell and also for the maintenance of a much steeper gradient during incubation under hyperionic conditions outside the host. The particular intracellular ion concentration of the host cells could have been a decisive evolutionary factor for the very successful establishment of the mutualistic symbioses between anthozoans and dinoflagellates more than 200 million years ago.