Dinoflagellate bioluminescence provides a near-instantaneous reporter of cell response to flow. Although both fluid shear stress and acceleration are thought to be stimulatory, previous studies have used flow fields dominated by shear. In the present study, computational and experimental approaches were used to assess the relative contributions to bioluminescence stimulation of shear stress and acceleration in a laminar converging nozzle. This flow field is characterized by separate regions of pronounced acceleration away from the walls, and shear along the wall. Bioluminescence of the dinoflagellates Lingulodinium polyedrum and Ceratocorys horrida, chosen because of their previously characterized different flow sensitivities, was imaged with a low-light video system. Numerical simulations were used to calculate the position of stimulated cells and the levels of acceleration and shear stress at these positions. Cells were stimulated at the nozzle throat within the wall boundary layer where, for that downstream position, shear stress was relatively high and acceleration relatively low. Cells of C. horrida were always stimulated significantly higher in the flow field than cells of L. polyedrum and at lower flow rates, consistent with their greater flow sensitivity. For both species, shear stress levels at the position of stimulated cells were similar to but slightly greater than previously determined response thresholds using independent flow fields. L. polyedrum did not respond in conditions where acceleration was as high as 20 g. These results indicate that shear stress, rather than acceleration, was the stimulatory component of flow. Thus, even in conditions of high acceleration, dinoflagellate bioluminescence is an effective marker of shear stress.
- © The Company of Biologists Limited 2004