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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1998 Jul;64(7):2585-95.

Seasonal and spatial variability of bacterial and archaeal assemblages in the coastal waters near Anvers Island, Antarctica.

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  • 1Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara 93106, USA.


A previous report of high levels of members of the domain Archaeal in Antarctic coastal waters prompted us to investigate the ecology of Antarctic planktonic prokaryotes. rRNA hybridization techniques and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis of the bacterial V3 region were used to study variation in Antarctic picoplankton assemblages. In Anvers Island nearshore waters during late winter to early spring, the amounts of archaeal rRNA ranged from 17.1 to 3.6% of the total picoplankton rRNA in 1996 and from 16.0 to 1.0% of the total rRNA in 1995. Offshore in the Palmer Basin, the levels of archaeal rRNA throughout the water column were higher (average, 24% of the total rRNA) during the same period in 1996. The archaeal rRNA levels in nearshore waters followed a highly seasonal pattern and markedly decreased during the austral summer at two stations. There was a significant negative correlation between archaeal rRNA levels and phytoplankton levels (as inferred from chlorophyll a concentrations) in nearshore surface waters during the early spring of 1995 and during an 8-month period in 1996 and 1997. In situ hybridization experiments revealed that 5 to 14% of DAPI (4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole)-stained cells were archaeal, corresponding to 0.9 x 10(4) to 2.7 x 10(4) archaeal cells per ml, in late winter 1996 samples. Analysis of bacterial ribosomal DNA fragments by DGGE revealed that the assemblage composition may reflect changes in water column stability, depth, or season. The data indicate that changes in Antarctic seasons are accompanied by significant shifts in the species composition of bacterioplankton assemblages and by large decrease in the relative proportion of archaeal rRNA in the nearshore water column.

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