Research Summary: Rapid Mass Movement of Chloroplasts during Segment Formation of the Calcifying Siphonalean Green Alga, Halimeda macroloba



The calcifying siphonalean green alga, Halimeda macroloba is abundant on coral reefs and is important in the production of calcium carbonate sediments. The process by which new green segments are formed over-night is revealed here for the first time.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Growth of new segments was visualised by epifluorescence and confocal microscopy and by pulse amplitude modulation (PAM) fluorimetry. Apical colourless proto-segments were initiated on day 1, and formed a loose network of non-calcified, non-septate filaments, containing no chloroplasts. Rapid greening was initiated at dusk by i) the mass movement of chloroplasts into these filaments from the parent segment and ii) the growth of new filaments containing chloroplasts. Greening was usually complete in 3–5 h and certainly before dawn on day 2 when the first signs of calcification were apparent. Mass chloroplast movement took place at a rate of ∼0.65 µm/s. Photosynthetic yield and rate remained low for a period of 1 to several hours, indicating that the chloroplasts were made de novo. Use of the inhibitors colchicine and cytochalasin d indicated that the movement process is dependent on both microtubules and microfilaments.


This unusual process involves the mass movement of chloroplasts at a high rate into new segments during the night and rapid calcification on the following day and may be an adaptation to minimise the impact of herbivorous activity.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 5-July-2011

Author(s): Larkum A., Salih A., Kühl M.


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