When to say when: Can excessive drinking explain silicon uptake in diatoms?

Kimberlee Thamatrakoln, Adam B. Kustka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Diatoms are the single most important drivers of the oceanic silicon biogeochemical cycle. Due to their considerable promise in nanotechnology, there is tremendous interest in understanding the mechanism by which they produce their intricately and ornately decorated silica-based cell wall. Although specific proteins have been implicated in some of the key steps of silicification, the exact mechanisms are poorly understood. Silicon transporters, identified in both diatoms and silicoflagellates, are hypothesized to mediate silicon uptake. Recently, macropinocytosis, the non-specific engulfment of extracellular fluid, was proposed as a more energetically favorable uptake mechanism, which can also explain the long-observed effect of salinity on frustule morphology. We explore the bioenergetic, membrane recycling, and vacuolar volume requirements that must be satisfied for pinocytosis-mediated silicon uptake. These calculated requirements contrast starkly with existing data on diatom physiology, uptake kinetics, growth, and ultrastructure, leading us to conclude that pinocytosis cannot be the primary mechanism of silicon uptake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)322-327
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


  • Diatoms
  • Pinocytosis
  • Silicification
  • Silicon uptake


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