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An experimental study of magnesium-isotope fractionation in chlorophyll-a photosynthesis


Measurements are presented of the magnesium isotopic composition of chlorophyll-a, extracted from cyanobacteria, relative to the isotopic composition of the culture medium in which the cyanobacteria were grown. Yields of 50-93% chlorophyll-a were achieved from the pigment extracts of Synechococcus elongatus, a unicellular cyanobacteria. This material was then digested using concentrated nitric acid to extract magnesium. Separation was accomplished using columns of cation-exchange resin, which achieved a 103 +/- 10% yield of magnesium from chlorophyll-a. This procedure ensured accurate measurement of the magnesium-isotopic ratios without isobaric interferences using a multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICP-MS). We find a slight depletion in the heavier isotopes of magnesium in chlorophyll-a relative to culture medium, early growth phase: Delta Mg-26 = -0.71(+/- 0.35)parts per thousand and Delta Mg-25 = -0.37(+/- 0.18)parts per thousand; late growth phase: Delta Mg-26 = -0.53(+/- 0.20)parts per thousand and Delta Mg-25 = -0.26(+/- 0.11)parts per thousand, due to an apparent mass-dependent fractionation. We suggest that the small fractionation results from chelation during intracellular processes. A likely candidate for this chelation step involves the magnesium-chelatase enzyme, which mediates the insertion of magnesium to the tetrapyrrole ring during chlorophyll-a biosynthesis. Proof of this hypothesis can be tested with biological controls whereby steps in the enzymatic pathways of chlorophyll synthesis are selectively suppressed. (c) 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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