Phaeobacter inhibens induces apoptosis-like programmed cell death in calcifying Emiliania huxleyi

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Scientific Reports, 2019, 9 (1)
Issue Date:
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© 2019, The Author(s). The model coccolithophore, Emiliania huxleyi, forms expansive blooms dominated by the calcifying cell type, which produce calcite scales called coccoliths. Blooms last several weeks, after which the calcified algal cells rapidly die, descending into the deep ocean. E. huxleyi bloom collapse is attributed to E. huxleyi viruses (EhVs) that infect and kill calcifying cells, while other E. huxleyi pathogens, such as bacteria belonging to the roseobacter clade, are overlooked. EhVs kill calcifying E. huxleyi by inducing production of bioactive viral-glycosphingolipids (vGSLs), which trigger algal programmed cell death (PCD). The roseobacter Phaeobacter inhibens was recently shown to interact with and kill the calcifying cell type of E. huxleyi, but the mechanism of algal death remains unelucidated. Here we demonstrate that P. inhibens kills calcifying E. huxleyi by inducing a highly specific type of PCD called apoptosis-like-PCD (AL-PCD). Host death can successfully be abolished in the presence of a pan-caspase inhibitor, which prevents the activation of caspase-like molecules. This finding differentiates P. inhibens and EhV pathogenesis of E. huxleyi, by demonstrating that bacterial-induced AL-PCD requires active caspase-like molecules, while the viral pathogen does not. This is the first demonstration of a bacterium inducing AL-PCD in an algal host as a killing mechanism.
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