Characterization of the affinity for nitrogen, uptake kinetics, and environmental relationships for Prorocentrum minimum in natural blooms and laboratory cultures

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Harmful Algae

Publication Date


Date Added



During the late spring and early summer of 1998, an extensive bloom of the dinoflagellate Prorocentrum minimum (>93% of phytoplankton cell density) developed in several tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay, USA. In January 1999, a bloom of mixed dinoflagellates (Heterocapsa rotundata, H. triquetra and P. minimum, with P. minimum forming 21% of total phytoplankton cells and 39% of the total biovolume) developed in the mesohaline Neuse Estuary, North Carolina, USA. During these blooms, experiments were carried out to characterize the nitrogen uptake kinetics of these assemblages with isotopic techniques. Four nitrogenous substrates (NO3−, NH4+, urea, and a mixed amino acids substrate) were used to determine uptake rate and substrate preference. Rates of nitrogen uptake were also measured in P. minimum cultures grown on varying growth nitrogen substrates. The calculated kinetic parameters determined for the P. minimum-dominated field assemblages and the cultures indicated a preference for NH4+. NH4+ was also the primary nitrogen source supporting the blooms. In addition, a high affinity for urea was also found, and urea contributed significantly to the Neuse Estuary bloom. Furthermore, results showed that the regulation of uptake for each of the substrates was different: strong positive relationships between affinity and temperature were found for NH4+ and amino acids, while a negative response was found for NO3−, and very little response to temperature was noted for urea. These differences suggest that a diversity of nitrogen uptake mechanisms may aid the development and maintenance of P. minimum blooms.