A series of experiments on heterocyst production in Anabaena variabilis provides some strong indirect evidence for the role of heterocysts in nitrogen fixation. Of the algae tested (Anabaena variabilis, A. inaequalis, A. cylindrica, A. flos-aquae, Tolypothrix distorta, Gloeotrichia echinulata, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, Oscillatoria sp., and Microcystis aeruginosa), only those with heterocysts grew in a nitrate-free medium. Growth in the nitrate-free medium was accompanied by an increase in heterocysts. Heterocyst formation in A. variabilis was evident 24 hr after transfer from a nitrate-containing to a nitrate-free medium. The number of heterocysts was altered by changes in the nitrogen source. Numbers were lowest when NH4-N was used as a nitrogen source and highest when nitrogen (N2-N) was derived from the atmosphere. Heterocyst numbers could also be regulated by controlling the concentration of NO3-N in the medium. Heterocyst production depended on the absence of combined nitrogen and the presence of phosphate. Data are presented on the occurrence of blue-green algae (with heterocysts) in Lake Erie and the environmental conditions apparently necessary for them to become dominant.
Additional publication details
The influence of nitrogen on heterocyst production in blue-green algae
Limnology and Oceanography
American Society of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO)