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No Phosphorus? No Problem! (There’s More Than One Way to Skin a Phytoplankton)

A recent post from the Small Things Considered blog comments on an interesting paper on how phytoplankton in the ocean use non-phosphorus lipids in response to phosphorus scarcity.

"A recent paper revisits an earlier finding that marine cyanobacteria and small eukaryotes (the “phytoplankton”) make do in a phosphate-deficient oceanic environment by simply replacing much of their phospholipids with sulfolipids. In other words, a sulfur-for-phosphate swap. This works OK for lipids, but not so well for nucleic acids, which are essentially irreplaceable. (However, in the case of RNA at least, the amount made is modulated by the growth conditions and can be decreased during hard times.)"

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