Cellular pH measurements in Emiliania huxleyi reveal pronounced membrane proton permeability

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Suffrian, K, Schulz, KG, Gutowska, MA, Riebesell, U & Bleich, M 2011, 'Cellular pH measurements in Emiliania huxleyi reveal pronounced membrane proton permeability', New Phytologist, vol. 190, no. 3, pp. 595-608.

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To understand the influence of changing surface ocean pH and carbonate chemistry on the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi, it is necessary to characterize mechanisms involved in pH homeostasis and ion transport. Here, we measured effects of changes in seawater carbonate chemistry on the fluorescence emission ratio of BCECF (2′,7′-bis-(2-carboxyethyl)-5-(and-6)-carboxyfluorescein) as a measure of intracellular pH (pHi). Out of equilibrium solutions were used to differentiate between membrane permeation pathways for H+, CO2 and HCO3. Changes in fluorescence ratio were calibrated in single cells, resulting in a ratio change of 0.78 per pHi unit. pHi acutely followed the pH of seawater (pHe) in a linear fashion between pHe values of 6.5 and 9 with a slope of 0.44 per pHe unit. pHi was nearly insensitive to changes in seawater CO2 at constant pHe and HCO3. An increase in extracellular HCO3 resulted in a slight intracellular acidification. In the presence of DIDS (4,4′-diisothiocyanatostilbene-2,2′-disulfonic acid), a broad-spectrum inhibitor of anion exchangers, E. huxleyi acidified irreversibly. DIDS slightly reduced the effect of pHe on pHi. The data for the first time show the occurrence of a proton permeation pathway in E. huxleyi plasma membrane. pHi homeostasis involves a DIDS-sensitive mechanism.