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A newly discovered Roseobacter cluster in temperate and polar oceans


Bacterioplankton phylotypes of α-Proteobacteria have been detected in various marine regions, but systematic biogeographical studies of their global distribution are missing. α-Proteobacteria comprise one of the largest fractions of heterotrophic marine bacteria1,2 and include two clades, SAR11 and Roseobacter, which account for 26 and 16% of 16S ribosomal RNA gene clones retrieved from marine bacterioplankton3. The SAR11 clade attracted much interest because related 16S rRNA gene clones were among the first groups of marine bacteria to be identified by cultivation-independent approaches4 and appear to dominate subtropical surface bacterioplankton communities5. Here we report on the global distribution of a newly discovered cluster affiliated to the Roseobacter clade, comprising only as-yet-uncultured phylotypes. Bacteria of this cluster occur from temperate to polar regions with highest abundance in the Southern Ocean, but not in tropical and subtropical regions. Between the south Atlantic subtropical front and Antarctica, we detected two distinct phylotypes, one north and one south of the polar front, indicating that two adjacent but different oceanic provinces allow the persistence of distinct but closely related phylotypes. These results suggest that the global distribution of major marine bacterioplankton components is related to oceanic water masses and controlled by their environmental and biogeochemical properties.

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Figure 1: Phylogenetic trees showing the affiliation of the RCA cluster 16S rRNA gene sequences within α-Proteobacteria.
Figure 2: Distribution of RCA-cluster-affiliated phylotypes.


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We thank R. Brinkmeyer, A. Bruns, B. Engelen, S. Germer, H.-P. Grossart, K. Pohlmann, U. Saint-Paul, G. Steward, M. Taylor, A. Teske and W. Zwisler for providing us with samples from various oceanic regions, A. Schlingloff for assistance in sequencing, and D. Dotschkal for FISH and puf gene analyses. We are grateful to D. L. Kirchman, M. A. Moran and U. Riebesell for suggestions on earlier versions of this manuscript. This work was supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

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Correspondence to Meinhard Simon.

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Selje, N., Simon, M. & Brinkhoff, T. A newly discovered Roseobacter cluster in temperate and polar oceans. Nature 427, 445–448 (2004).

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