Trace metal transport by marine microorganisms: implications of metal coordination kinetics

Robert J.M. Hudson, François M.M. Morel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

176 Scopus citations


Marine microorganisms have transport systems capable of accumulating essential trace metals present at low oceanic concentrations-1 pM to 1 nM. In marine phytoplankton, Fe, Mn, Zn and Ni transport has been shown to involve complexation by membrane carriers. By analysing the kinetics of the transport process and accounting for the inherently slow coordination reactions of some of these metals, we predict optimum properties and minimum numbers of sites for the transport systems. Limits to trace metal uptake, and thereby to growth rates, may arise from finite space for these transport sites in the membrane, competition from other metals and the rate of diffusion to the cell. These types of nutrient limitation should exhibit different size dependencies and therefore be important in determining ecosystem structure. The concentrations of inorganically complexed species of nutrient metals remaining in the surface ocean appear to be correlated with predicted rates of metal complexation by trace metal transport sites, suggesting that kinetic liability controls the bioavailability of these metals and their rate of removal from the surface ocean.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-150
Number of pages22
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1993
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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