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Transcriptional patterns identify resource controls on the diazotroph Trichodesmium in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans

The ISME Journalvolume 12pages14861495 (2018) | Download Citation


The N2-fixing cyanobacterium Trichodesmium is intensely studied because of the control this organism exerts over the cycling of carbon and nitrogen in the low nutrient ocean gyres. Although iron (Fe) and phosphorus (P) bioavailability are thought to be major drivers of Trichodesmium distributions and activities, identifying resource controls on Trichodesmium is challenging, as Fe and P are often organically complexed and their bioavailability to a single species in a mixed community is difficult to constrain. Further, Fe and P geochemistries are linked through the activities of metalloenzymes, such as the alkaline phosphatases (APs) PhoX and PhoA, which are used by microbes to access dissolved organic P (DOP). Here we identified significant correlations between Trichodesmium-specific transcriptional patterns in the North Atlantic (NASG) and North Pacific Subtropical Gyres (NPSG) and patterns in Fe and P biogeochemistry, with the relative enrichment of Fe stress markers in the NPSG, and P stress markers in the NASG. We also observed the differential enrichment of Fe-requiring PhoX transcripts in the NASG and Fe-insensitive PhoA transcripts in the NPSG, suggesting that metalloenzyme switching may be used to mitigate Fe limitation of DOP metabolism in Trichodesmium. This trait may underpin Trichodesmium success across disparate ecosystems.

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We thank D McGillicuddy, J Waterbury, C Davis, S Wilson, A Heithoff, L Wurch, and E Olson for participating in the sample collection, and the captain and crew of the R/V Oceanus and R/V Kilo Moana for their help at sea. We thank H Joy-Warren for her help with nutrient analyses. We additionally thank the National Center for Genome Analysis Support (NCGAS) for access to computational time on Indiana University resources and data storage. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Biological Oceanography Program (Ocean Sciences-0925284) and the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education, C-MORE (National Science Foundation award DBI04-24599). This work was also supported in part by the Simons Foundation (SCOPE award ID 329108 to STD), and is a contribution of the Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology (SCOPE).

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  1. Biology and Paleo Environment Division, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, 10964, USA

    • Mónica Rouco
    • , Kyle R. Frischkorn
    • , Sheean T. Haley
    •  & Sonya T. Dyhrman
  2. Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY, 10027, USA

    • Mónica Rouco
    • , Kyle R. Frischkorn
    •  & Sonya T. Dyhrman
  3. Department of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA, 95616, USA

    • Harriet Alexander


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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Sonya T. Dyhrman.

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