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Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. 2002 Aug;81(1-4):521-7.

Community structure and function in prokaryotic marine plankton.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles 90089-0371, USA.


Molecular biodiversity studies of microbial communities have provided invaluable information on the existence of heretofore unknown organisms and on community composition. Cloning and 'fingerprinting' techniques have been used many times to study prokaryote community composition of marine plankton. There are still many opportunities for new discoveries in this area, but the results have also opened new questions about the activities of these organisms and their function, going beyond just listing taxa or counting organisms. Rarely can the broad function be inferred from phylogenetic position alone (e.g. cyanobacteria). The recent discovery of abundant non-cyanobacterial marine phototrophs points to our inability to link phylogenetic position with function in a detailed way. One approach we have found fruitful is to combine fluorescence in situ hybridization with microautoradiography, a technique dubbed STARFISH. A recent application has shown that ubiquitous archaea from the deep sea, phylogenetically related to extreme thermophiles, are active in the uptake of amino acids from ambient (nanomolar) concentrations. This suggests the group is at least partly heterotrophic and able to compete successfully with bacteria for nutrients. Other as-yet uncultivated groups are also amenable to similar studies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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