Diel in situ picophytoplankton cell death cycles coupled with cell division

Moira Llabrés*, Susana Agustí, Gerhard J. Herndl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The diel variability in picophytoplankton cell death was analyzed by quantifying the proportion of dead cyanobacteria Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus cells along several in situ diel cycles in the open Mediterranean Sea. During the diel cycle, total cell abundance varied on average 2.8±0.6 and 2.6±0.4 times for Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus populations, respectively. Increasing percentages of dead cells of Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus were observed during the course of the day reaching the highest values around dusk and decreasing as the night progressed, indicating a clear pattern of diel variation in the cell mortality of both cyanobacteria. Diel cycles of cell division were also monitored. The maximum percentage of dead cells (Max % DC) and the G2+M phase of the cell division occurred within a period of 2h for Synechoccoccus and 4.5h for Prochlorococcus, and the lowest fraction of dead cells occurred at early morning, when the maximum number of cells in G1 phase were also observed. The G1 maximum corresponded with the maximal increase in newly divided cells (minimum % dead cells), and the subsequent exposure of healthy daughter cells to environmental stresses during the day resulted in the progressive increase in dying cells, with the loss of these cells from the population when cell division takes place. The discovery of diel patterns in cell death observed revealed the intense dynamics of picocyanobacterial populations in nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1247-1257
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Phycology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell death
  • Cell division
  • Coupling
  • Diel cycles
  • Prochlorococcus
  • Synechococcus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Plant Science


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