Dissolved organic matter stimulates N₂ fixation and nifH gene expression in Trichodesmium

Benavides, Mar; Duhamel, Solange; Van Wambeke, France; Shoemaker, Katyanne M.; Moisander, Pia H.; Salamon, Ellen; Riemann, Lasse; Bonnet, Sophie

Mixotrophy, the combination of heterotrophic and autotrophic nutrition modes, is emerging as the rule rather than the exception in marine photosynthetic plankton. Trichodesmium, a prominent diazotroph ubiquitous in the (sub)tropical oceans, is generally considered to obtain energy via autotrophy. While the ability of Trichodesmium to use dissolved organic phosphorus when deprived of inorganic phosphorus sources is well known, the extent to which this important cyanobacterium may benefit from other dissolved organic matter (DOM) sources is unknown. Here we provide evidence of carbon-, nitrogen- and phosphorus-rich DOM molecules enhancing N₂ fixation rates and nifH gene expression in natural Trichodesmium colonies collected at two stations in the western tropical South Pacific. Sampling at a third station located in the oligotrophic South Pacific Gyre revealed no Trichodesmium but showed presence of UCYN-B, although no nifH expression was detected. Our results suggest that Trichodesmium may behave mixotrophically in response to certain environmental conditions, providing them with metabolic plasticity and adding up to the view that mixotrophy is widespread among marine microbes.

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FEMS Microbiology Letters

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Biology and Paleo Environment
Published Here
April 7, 2020