A Flow Cytometric Approach to Assessing the environmental and Physiological status of Phytoplankton

Serge Demers
Kimberly Davis, Old Dominion University
Terry L. Cucci


Individual particle analysis using a flow cytometer (FCM) was made on natural phytoplankton communities in oligotrophic waters. Our objective was to develop an assay to yield information on the nutrient history of individual cells using FCM. Results from nutrient assays showed that both biovolume and total red fluorescence are affected by the nutrient conditions in the incubator. The light effect was measured by changes in the chlorophyll content of the cells, and after the 12 h incubation the cells seemed well adapted to the light conditions. The estimated kinetic constant for the chlorophyll synthesis averaged 1.5 × 1.0−2 h−1, whereas the growth rate calculated from the changes in the cell numbers changed from 0.14 to > 2.5 doubling per day. The smallest size fraction presented the highest growth rate ( > 2.5 doublings per day). The relationship between the total red fluorescence as estimated with the FCM and the biovolume revealed that the cells from the 2 m samples at the beginning of the experiment were probably nutrient limited. Important changes in the size of the cells under nutrient limitation were also observed. The FCM data suggest that the FCM is a valuable tool for estimating the relative growth response and nutritional state of natural phytoplankton populations. © 1989 Alan R. Liss, Inc.