Light-dependent single-cell heterogeneity in the chloroplast redox state regulates cell fate in a marine diatom

Avia Mizrachi, Shiri Graff van Creveld, Orr H. Shapiro, Shilo Rosenwasser, Assaf Vardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Diatoms are photosynthetic microorganisms of great ecological and biogeochemical importance, forming vast blooms in aquatic ecosystems. However, we are still lacking fundamental understanding of how individual cells sense and respond to diverse stress conditions, and what acclimation strategies are employed during bloom dynamics. We investigated cellular responses to environmental stress at the single-cell level using the redox sensor roGFP targeted to various organelles in the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum. We detected cell-to-cell variability using flow cytometry cell sorting and a microfluidics system for live imaging of oxidation dynamics. Chloroplast-targeted roGFP exhibited a light-dependent, bi-stable oxidation pattern in response to H2O2 and high light, revealing distinct subpopulations of sensitive oxidized cells and resilient reduced cells. Early oxidation in the chloroplast preceded commitment to cell death, and can be used for sensing stress cues and regulating cell fate. We propose that light-dependent metabolic heterogeneity regulates diatoms' sensitivity to environmental stressors in the ocean.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere47732
StatePublished - 24 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Mizrachi et al.


  • ROS
  • cell fate
  • chloroplast
  • diatom
  • ecology
  • infectious disease
  • microbiology
  • phenotypic variability
  • single-cell


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