Elemental homeostasis has been largely characterized using three important elements that were part of the Redfield ratio (i.e., carbon: nitrogen: phosphorus). These efforts have revealed substantial diversity in homeostasis among taxonomic groups and even within populations. Understanding the evolutionary basis, and ecological consequences of such diversity is a central challenge. Here, we propose that a more complete understanding of homeostasis necessitates the consideration of other elements beyond C, N, and P. Specifically, we posit that physiological complexity underlying maintenance of elemental homeostasis along a single elemental axis impacts processing of other elements, thus altering elemental homeostasis along other axes. Indeed, transcriptomic studies in a wide variety of organisms have found that individuals differentially express significant proportions of the genome in response to variability in supply stoichiometry in order to maintain varying levels of homeostasis. We review the literature from the emergent field of ionomics that has established the consequences of such physiological trade-offs on the content of the entire suite of elements in an individual. Further, we present experimental data on bacteria exhibiting divergent phosphorus homeostasis phenotypes demonstrating the fundamental interconnectedness among elemental quotas. These observations suggest that physiological adjustments can lead to unexpected patterns in biomass stoichiometry, such as correlated changes among suites of non-limiting microelements in response to limitation by macroelements. Including the entire suite of elements that comprise biomass will foster improved quantitative understanding of the links between chemical cycles and the physiology of organisms.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This perspective was catalyzed by a group discussion at the Conference on Biological Stoichiometry in 2015, Trent University, Canada. Support from National Science Foundation grant #1256867 to PJ and #1257571 to JC facilitated this manuscript.
© 2017 Jeyasingh, Goos, Thompson, Godwin and Cotner.
- Elemental profiling
- Freshwater heterotrophic bacteria
- Nutrient limitation
- Phosphorus supply