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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002 Jun;68(6):2997-3002.

Distribution of membrane lipids of planktonic Crenarchaeota in the Arabian Sea.

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Department of Marine Biogeochemistry and Toxicology, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands.


Intact core tetraether membrane lipids of marine planktonic Crenarchaeota were quantified in water column-suspended particulate matter obtained from four depth intervals ( approximately 70, 500, 1,000 and 1,500 m) at seven stations in the northwestern Arabian Sea to investigate the distribution of the organisms at various depths. Maximum concentrations generally occurred at 500 m, near the top of the oxygen minimum zone, and the concentrations at this depth were, in most cases, slightly higher than those in surface waters. In contrast, lipids derived from eukaryotes (cholesterol) and from eukaryotes and bacteria (fatty acids) were at their highest concentrations in surface waters. This indicates that these crenarchaeotes are not restricted to the photic zone of the ocean, which is consistent with the results of recent molecular biological studies. Since the Arabian Sea has a strong oxygen minimum zone between 100 and 1,000 m, with minimum oxygen levels of <1 microM, the abundance of crenarchaeotal membrane lipids at 500 m suggests that planktonic Crenarchaeota are probably facultative anaerobes. The cell numbers we calculated from the concentrations of membrane lipids are similar to those reported for the Central Pacific Ocean, supporting the recent estimation of M. B. Karner, E. F. DeLong, and D. M. Karl ( Nature 409:507-510, 2001) that the world's oceans contain ca. 10(28) cells of planktonic Crenarchaeota.

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