HRZZ: From algal cell surface properties to stress markers for aquatic ecosystems
A key to forecast the impact of climate change on aquatic communities is an understanding of fragility of different trophic levels in the ecosystem.
The CELLSTRESS project focuses on marine microalgae as the globally important primary producers, drivers of essential biogeochemical cycles, as well as the basis of aquatic food web. Changes in algal responses can be an accurate marker of ecosystem perturbations, since microalgae quickly respond to subtle environmental variations due to short life cycles.
The objective is to relate algal cell response (in terms of surface properties and physiological behaviour) to main abiotic environmental stressors (temperature and salinity) in order to better understand viability and adaptation strategies of algal populations in aquatic systems. Selected model organisms are algal species of varied cellular barrier properties, cell motility and salinity tolerance. We will use complementary biophysical surface methods capable of studying individual cells (atomic force microscopy, quartz crystal microbalance and electrochemical method). While each method probes a different aspect of cell surface properties, together they can provide a more unified understanding and extend the scale of cell surface characterization from micro to nano level, which is of importance to understand cell behaviour under environmental stress conditions.
The CELLSTRESS project could substantially contribute to the present knowledge in the biophysics of algal cell on the fundamental level. Understanding of the cell surface properties may help to elucidate the interplay between mechanics and biochemistry that regulates functional cell behaviour. The project results may potentially impact the future environmental protection guidelines by inclusion of nanomechanical cell-stress study in the portfolio of methods to evaluate state of the ecosystem under consideration.