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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 May;71(5):2303-9.

Contribution of Archaea to total prokaryotic production in the deep Atlantic Ocean.

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Department of Biological Oceanography, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, 1790 AB Den Burg, The Netherlands.


Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) in combination with polynucleotide probes revealed that the two major groups of planktonic Archaea (Crenarchaeota and Euryarchaeota) exhibit a different distribution pattern in the water column of the Pacific subtropical gyre and in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current system. While Euryarchaeota were found to be more dominant in nearsurface waters, Crenarchaeota were relatively more abundant in the mesopelagic and bathypelagic waters. We determined the abundance of archaea in the mesopelagic and bathypelagic North Atlantic along a south-north transect of more than 4,000 km. Using an improved catalyzed reporter deposition-FISH (CARD-FISH) method and specific oligonucleotide probes, we found that archaea were consistently more abundant than bacteria below a 100-m depth. Combining microautoradiography with CARD-FISH revealed a high fraction of metabolically active cells in the deep ocean. Even at a 3,000-m depth, about 16% of the bacteria were taking up leucine. The percentage of Euryarchaeota and Crenarchaeaota taking up leucine did not follow a specific trend, with depths ranging from 6 to 35% and 3 to 18%, respectively. The fraction of Crenarchaeota taking up inorganic carbon increased with depth, while Euryarchaeota taking up inorganic carbon decreased from 200 m to 3,000 m in depth. The ability of archaea to take up inorganic carbon was used as a proxy to estimate archaeal cell production and to compare this archaeal production with total prokaryotic production measured via leucine incorporation. We estimate that archaeal production in the mesopelagic and bathypelagic North Atlantic contributes between 13 to 27% to the total prokaryotic production in the oxygen minimum layer and 41 to 84% in the Labrador Sea Water, declining to 10 to 20% in the North Atlantic Deep Water. Thus, planktonic archaea are actively growing in the dark ocean although at lower growth rates than bacteria and might play a significant role in the oceanic carbon cycle.

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