Time series studies have shown that some bacterial taxa occur only at specific times of the year while others are ubiquitous in spite of seasonal shifts in environmental variables. Here, we ask if these ubiquitous clades are generalists that grow over a wide range of environmental conditions, or clusters of strain-level environmental specialists. To answer this question, vibrio strains isolated at a coastal time series were phylogenetically and physiologically characterized revealing three dominant strategies within the vibrio: mesophiles, psychrophiles and apparently generalist broad thermal range clades. Thermal performance curves from laboratory growth rate experiments help explain field observations of relative abundances: the mesophilic clade grows optimally at temperatures 16 ?C higher than the psychrophilic clade. Strains in the broad thermal range clade all have similar optimal growth temperatures but also exhibit temperature-related tradeoffs with faster growth rates for warm temperature strains and broader growth ranges for strains from cool temperatures. Moreover, the mechanisms of thermal adaptation apparently differ based on evolutionary time scales: shifts in the temperature of maximal growth occur between deeply branching clades but thermal performance curve shape changes on shorter time scales. Thus, apparently ubiquitous clades are likely not generalists, but contain subclusters with distinct environmental preferences.
The biodiversity of phytoplankton is a core measurement of the state and activity of marine ecosystems. In the context of historical approaches, we review recent major advances in the technologies that have enabled deeper characterization of the biodiversity of phytoplankton. In particular, highthroughput sequencing of single loci/genes, genomes, and communities (metagenomics) has revealed exceptional phylogenetic and genomic diversity whose breadth is not fully constrained. Other molecular tools-such as fingerprinting, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, and fluorescence in situ hybridization-have provided additional insight into the dynamics of this diversity in the context of environmental variability. Techniques for characterizing the functional diversity of community structure through targeted or untargeted approaches based on RNA or protein have also greatly advanced. A wide range of techniques is now available for characterizing phytoplankton communities, and these tools will continue to advance through ongoing improvements in both technology and data interpretation. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Marine Science Volume 7 is January 03, 2015. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/catalog/pubdates.aspx for revised estimates.
Transitions in community genomic features and biogeochemical processes were examined in surface and subsurface chlorophyll maximum (SCM) microbial communities across a trophic gradient from mesotrophic waters near San Diego, California to the oligotrophic Pacific. Transect end points contrasted in thermocline depth, rates of nitrogen and CO2 uptake, new production and SCM light intensity. Relative to surface waters, bacterial SCM communities displayed greater genetic diversity and enrichment in putative sulfur oxidizers, multiple actinomycetes, low-light-adapted Prochlorococcus and cell-associated viruses. Metagenomic coverage was not correlated with transcriptional activity for several key taxa within Bacteria. Low-light-adapted Prochlorococcus, Synechococcus, and low abundance gamma-proteobacteria enriched in the>3.0-?m size fraction contributed disproportionally to global transcription. The abundance of these groups also correlated with community functions, such as primary production or nitrate uptake. In contrast, many of the most abundant bacterioplankton, including SAR11, SAR86, SAR112 and high-light-adapted Prochlorococcus, exhibited low levels of transcriptional activity and were uncorrelated with rate processes. Eukaryotes such as Haptophytes and non-photosynthetic Aveolates were prevalent in surface samples while Mamielles and Pelagophytes dominated the SCM. Metatranscriptomes generated with ribosomal RNA-depleted mRNA (total mRNA) coupled to in vitro polyadenylation compared with polyA-enriched mRNA revealed a trade-off in detection eukaryotic organelle and eukaryotic nuclear origin transcripts, respectively. Gene expression profiles of SCM eukaryote populations, highly similar in sequence identity to the model pelagophyte Pelagomonas sp. CCMP1756, suggest that pelagophytes are responsible for a majority of nitrate assimilation within the SCM.
Fungi contribute substantially to biogeochemical cycles of terrestrial and marine habitats by decomposing matter and recycling nutrients. Yet, the diversity of their planktonic forms in the open ocean is poorly described. In this study, culture-independent and molecular approaches were applied to investigate fungal diversity and abundance derived from samples collected from a broad swath of the Pacific Warm Pool across major environmental gradients Our results revealed that planktonic fungi were molecularly diverse and their diversity patterns were related to major phytoplankton taxa and various nutrients including nitrate, nitrite, orthophosphate and silicic acid. Over 400 fungal phylotypes were recovered across this region and nearly half of them grouped into two major fungal lineages of Ascomycota and Basidiomycota, whose abundance varied among stations. These results suggest that planktonic fungi are a diverse and integral component of the marine microbial community and should be included in future marine microbial ecosystem models.
In the open ocean genetically diverse clades of the unicellular cyanobacteria Prochlorococcus are biogeographically structured along environmental gradients, yet little is known about their in situ activity. To address this gap, here we use the numerically dominant Prochlorococcus clade eHL-II (eMIT9312) as a model organism to develop and apply a method to examine their in situ activity using rRNA content and cell size as metrics of cellular physiology. For two representative isolates (MIT9312 and MIT9215) rRNA cell(-1) increases linearly with specific growth rate but is anticorrelated with cell size indicated by flow cytometrically measured (SSC). Although each strain has a unique relationship between cellular rRNA (or cell size) and growth rate, both strains have the same strong positive correlation between rRNA cell(-1) SSC(-1) and growth rate. We field test this approach and observe distinct patterns of eHL-II clade specific activity (rRNA cell(-1) SSC(-1)) with depth that are consistent with patterns of photosynthetic rates. This molecular technique provides unique insight into the ecology of Prochlorococcus and could potentially be expanded to include other microbes to unravel the ecological and biogeochemical contributions of genetically distinct marine side scatter microbes.
Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) from anthropogenic sources is acidifying marine environments resulting in potentially dramatic consequences for the physical, chemical and biological functioning of these ecosystems. If current trends continue, mean ocean pH is expected to decrease by ~0.2 units over the next ~50 years. Yet, there is also substantial temporal variability in pH and other carbon system parameters in the ocean resulting in regions that already experience change that exceeds long-term projected trends in pH. This points to short-term dynamics as an important layer of complexity on top of long-term trends. Thus, in order to predict future climate change impacts, there is a critical need to characterize the natural range and dynamics of the marine carbonate system and the mechanisms responsible for observed variability. Here, we present pH and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) at time intervals spanning 1 hour to >1 year from a dynamic, coastal, temperate marine system (Beaufort Inlet, Beaufort NC USA) to characterize the carbonate system at multiple time scales. Daily and seasonal variation of the carbonate system is largely driven by temperature, alkalinity and the balance between primary production and respiration, but high frequency change (hours to days) is further influenced by water mass movement (e.g. tides) and stochastic events (e.g. storms). Both annual (~0.3 units) and diurnal (~0.1 units) variability in coastal ocean acidity are similar in magnitude to 50 year projections of ocean acidity associated with increasing atmospheric CO2. The environmental variables driving these changes highlight the importance of characterizing the complete carbonate system rather than just pH. Short-term dynamics of ocean carbon parameters may already exert significant pressure on some coastal marine ecosystems with implications for ecology, biogeochemistry and evolution and this shorter term variability layers additive effects and complexity, including extreme values, on top of long-term trends in ocean acidification.
We completed a transect through the Western Pacific Warm Pool to examine how environmental variables may influence viral and bacterial abundance and production rates in this globally important oceanic region. Of the variables analyzed, viral abundance and production had the most significant relationship to bacterial cell abundance: viral parameters were not significantly correlated to the measured environmental variables, including temperature. Bacterial production rates were significantly correlated to temperature in open ocean waters, but not in waters close to land masses. Analyses of 16S rRNA gene by pyrosequencing indicated only minor changes in eubacterial community structure across the transect, with ?-proteobacteria dominating all sampled populations. Diversity within the prokaryotic community did not correlate directly with viral abundance or activity. Comparisons to two other ocean-scale transects (> 8000 km of open ocean in total) in the Atlantic Ocean indicated that correlations between viral and bacterial abundance and production relative to environmental variables are regime dependent. In particular, correlations to temperature showed remarkable differences across the three transects. Collectively, our observations suggest that seemingly similar oceanic regions may have very different microbial community responses to environmental variables. Our observations and analyses demonstrate that ocean-scale generalizations may not apply in the case of viral ecology.
The phytoplankton community in the oligotrophic open ocean is numerically dominated by the cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus, accounting for approximately half of all photosynthesis. In the illuminated euphotic zone where Prochlorococcus grows, reactive oxygen species are continuously generated via photochemical reactions with dissolved organic matter. However, Prochlorococcus genomes lack catalase and additional protective mechanisms common in other aerobes, and this genus is highly susceptible to oxidative damage from hydrogen peroxide (HOOH). In this study we showed that the extant microbial community plays a vital, previously unrecognized role in cross-protecting Prochlorococcus from oxidative damage in the surface mixed layer of the oligotrophic ocean. Microbes are the primary HOOH sink in marine systems, and in the absence of the microbial community, surface waters in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean accumulated HOOH to concentrations that were lethal for Prochlorococcus cultures. In laboratory experiments with the marine heterotroph Alteromonas sp., serving as a proxy for the natural community of HOOH-degrading microbes, bacterial depletion of HOOH from the extracellular milieu prevented oxidative damage to the cell envelope and photosystems of co-cultured Prochlorococcus, and facilitated the growth of Prochlorococcus at ecologically-relevant cell concentrations. Curiously, the more recently evolved lineages of Prochlorococcus that exploit the surface mixed layer niche were also the most sensitive to HOOH. The genomic streamlining of these evolved lineages during adaptation to the high-light exposed upper euphotic zone thus appears to be coincident with an acquired dependency on the extant HOOH-consuming community. These results underscore the importance of (indirect) biotic interactions in establishing niche boundaries, and highlight the impacts that community-level responses to stress may have in the ecological and evolutionary outcomes for co-existing species.
A sensitive, accurate and rapid analysis of major nutrients in aquatic systems is essential for monitoring and maintaining healthy aquatic environments. In particular, monitoring ammonium (NH(4)(+)) concentrations is necessary for maintenance of many fish stocks, while accurate monitoring and regulation of ammonium, orthophosphate (PO(4)(3-)), silicate (Si(OH)(4)) and nitrate (NO(3)(-)) concentrations are required for regulating algae production. Monitoring of wastewater streams is also required for many aquaculture, municipal and industrial wastewater facilities to comply with local, state or federal water quality effluent regulations. Traditional methods for quantifying these nutrient concentrations often require laborious techniques or expensive specialized equipment making these analyses difficult. Here we present four alternative microcolorimetric assays that are based on a standard 96-well microplate format and microplate reader that simplify the quantification of each of these nutrients. Each method uses small sample volumes (200 µL), has a detection limit ? 1 µM in freshwater and ? 2 µM in saltwater, precision of at least 8% and compares favorably with standard analytical procedures. Routine use of these techniques in the laboratory and at an aquaculture facility to monitor nutrient concentrations associated with microalgae growth demonstrates that they are rapid, accurate and highly reproducible among different users. These techniques offer an alternative to standard nutrient analyses and because they are based on the standard 96-well format, they significantly decrease the cost and time of processing while maintaining high precision and sensitivity.
Microbial community diversity and composition have critical biogeochemical roles in the functioning of marine ecosystems. Large populations of planktonic fungi exist in coastal ocean waters, yet their diversity and role in carbon and nutrient cycling remain largely unknown. Lack of information on critical functional microbial groups limits our understanding of their ecological roles in coastal oceans and hence our understanding of its functioning in the oceans carbon and nutrient cycles. To address this gap, this study applied the molecular approach denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) coupled with clone library construction to investigate mycoplankton communities in Hawaiian coastal waters. Mycoplankton communities displayed distinct lateral and vertical variations in diversity and composition. Compared with the open ocean, surface (<100 m) near-shore waters had the greatest diversity and species richness of mycoplankton, whereas no differences were found among stations at depths below 150 m. Vertical diversity profiles in the coastal waters suggested that diversity and species richness were positively correlated to phytoplankton biomass in the coastal waters, but not in offshore waters. A total of 46 species were identified and belonging to two phyla Basidiomycota and Ascomycota, with the basidiomycetes as the dominant group (n=42). The majority (n=27) of the basidiomycetes are novel phylotypes showing less than 98% identity in the 18S rRNA gene with any sequence in GenBank. This study provides insight into mycoplankton ecology and is the first molecular analysis of planktonic fungi in the oceans.
The marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus MED4 has the smallest genome and cell size of all known photosynthetic organisms. Like all phototrophs at temperate latitudes, it experiences predictable daily variation in available light energy which leads to temporal regulation and partitioning of key cellular processes. To better understand the tempo and choreography of this minimal phototroph, we studied the entire transcriptome of the cell over a simulated daily light-dark cycle, and placed it in the context of diagnostic physiological and cell cycle parameters. All cells in the culture progressed through their cell cycles in synchrony, thus ensuring that our measurements reflected the behavior of individual cells. Ninety percent of the annotated genes were expressed, and 80% had cyclic expression over the diel cycle. For most genes, expression peaked near sunrise or sunset, although more subtle phasing of gene expression was also evident. Periodicities of the transcripts of genes involved in physiological processes such as in cell cycle progression, photosynthesis, and phosphorus metabolism tracked the timing of these activities relative to the light-dark cycle. Furthermore, the transitions between photosynthesis during the day and catabolic consumption of energy reserves at night- metabolic processes that share some of the same enzymes--appear to be tightly choreographed at the level of RNA expression. In-depth investigation of these patterns identified potential regulatory proteins involved in balancing these opposing pathways. Finally, while this analysis has not helped resolve how a cell with so little regulatory capacity, and a deficient circadian mechanism, aligns its cell cycle and metabolism so tightly to a light-dark cycle, it does provide us with a valuable framework upon which to build when the Prochlorococcus proteome and metabolome become available.
Marine microbial communities are complex and dynamic, and their ecology impacts biogeochemical cycles in pelagic ecosystems. Yet, little is known about the relative activities of different microbial populations within genetically diverse communities. We used rRNA as a proxy for activity to quantify the relative specific activities (rRNA/ribosomal DNA [rDNA or rRNA genes]) of the eubacterial populations and to identify locations or clades for which there are uncouplings between specific activity and abundance. After analyzing 1.6 million sequences from 16S rDNA and rRNA (cDNA) libraries from two euphotic depths from a representative site in the Pacific Ocean, we show that although there is an overall positive relationship between the abundances (rDNAs) and activities (rRNAs) among populations of the bacterial community, for some populations these measures are uncoupled. Different ecological strategies are exemplified by the two numerically dominant clades at this site: the cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus is abundant but disproportionately more active, while the heterotrophic SAR11 is abundant but less active. Other rare populations, such as Alteromonas, have high specific activities in spite of their low abundances, suggesting intense population regulation. More detailed analyses using a complementary quantitative PCR (qPCR)-based approach of measuring relative specific activity for Prochlorococcus populations in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans also show that specific activity, but not abundance, reflects the key drivers of light and nutrients in this system; our results also suggest substantial top-down regulation (e.g., grazing, viruses, or organismal interactions) or transport (e.g., mixing, immigration, or emigration) of these populations. Thus, we show here that abundance and specific activity can be uncoupled in open ocean systems and that describing both is critical to characterizing microbial communities and predicting marine ecosystem functioning and responses to change.
The industrial-scale production of biofuels from cultivated microalgae has gained considerable interest in the last several decades. While the climate benefits of microalgae cultivation that result from the capture of atmospheric CO(2) are known, the counteracting effect from the potential emission of other greenhouse gases has not been well quantified. Here, we report the results of a study conducted at an industrial pilot facility in Hawaii to determine the air-water fluxes of N(2)O and CH(4) from open raceway ponds used to grow the marine diatom Staurosira sp. as a feedstock for biofuel. Dissolved O(2), CH(4), and N(2)O concentrations were measured over a 24 h cycle. During this time, four SF(6) tracer release experiments were conducted to quantify gas transfer velocities in the ponds, and these were then used to calculate air-water fluxes. Our results show that pond waters were consistently supersaturated with CH(4) (up to 725%) resulting in an average emission of 19.9 ± 5.6 ?mol CH(4) m(-2) d(-1). Upon NO(3)(-) depletion, the pond shifted from being a source to being a sink of N(2)O, with an overall net uptake during the experimental period of 3.4 ± 3.5 ?mol N(2)O m(-2) d(-1). The air-water fluxes of N(2)O and CH(4) expressed as CO(2) equivalents of global warming potential were 2 orders of magnitude smaller than the overall CO(2) uptake by the microalgae.
Aerobic anoxygenic phototrophic (AAP) bacteria are photoheterotrophic microbes that are found in a broad range of aquatic environments. Although potentially significant to the microbial ecology and biogeochemistry of marine ecosystems, their abundance and genetic diversity and the environmental variables that regulate these properties are poorly understood. Using samples along nearshore/offshore transects from five disparate islands in the Pacific Ocean (Oahu, Molokai, Futuna, Aniwa, and Lord Howe) and off California, we show that AAP bacteria, as quantified by the pufM gene biomarker, are most abundant near shore and in areas with high chlorophyll or Synechococcus abundance. These AAP bacterial populations are genetically diverse, with most members belonging to the alpha- or gammaproteobacterial groups and with subclades that are associated with specific environmental variables. The genetic diversity of AAP bacteria is structured along the nearshore/offshore transects in relation to environmental variables, and uncultured pufM gene libraries suggest that nearshore communities are distinct from those offshore. AAP bacterial communities are also genetically distinct between islands, such that the stations that are most distantly separated are the most genetically distinct. Together, these results demonstrate that environmental variables regulate both the abundance and diversity of AAP bacteria but that endemism may also be a contributing factor in structuring these communities.
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