Light Conditions Affect the Measurement of Oceanic Bacterial Production via Leucine Uptake

Xosé Anxelu G. Morán*, Ramon Massana, Josep M. Gasol

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The effect of irradiance in the range of 400 to 700 nm or photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) on bacterial heterotrophic production estimated by the incorporation of 3H-leucine (referred to herein as Leu) was investigated in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea and in a coastal North Atlantic site, with Leu uptake rates ranging over 3 orders of magnitude. We performed in situ incubations under natural irradiance levels of Mediterranean samples taken from five depths around solar noon and compared them to incubations in the dark. In two of the three stations large differences were found between light and dark uptake rates for the surfacemost samples, with dark values being on average 133 and 109% higher than in situ ones. Data obtained in coastal North Atlantic waters confirmed that dark enclosure may increase Leu uptake rates more than threefold. To explain these differences, on-board experiments of Leu uptake versus irradiance were performed with Mediterranean samples from depths of 5 and 40 m. Incubations under a gradient of 12 to 1,731 μmol of photons m-2 s-1 evidenced a significant increase in incorporation rates with increasing PAR in most of the experiments, with dark-incubated samples departing from this pattern. These results were not attributed to inhibition of Leu uptake in the light but to enhanced bacterial response when transferred to dark conditions. The ratio of dark to light uptake rates increased as dissolved inorganic nitrogen concentrations decreased, suggesting that bacterial nutrient deficiency was overcome by some process occurring only in the dark bottles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3795-3801
Number of pages7
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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