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ISME J. 2010 May;4(5):673-85. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2010.4. Epub 2010 Feb 18.

Comparative metaproteomics reveals ocean-scale shifts in microbial nutrient utilization and energy transduction.

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Center for Environmental Genomics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.


Bacteria and Archaea play critical roles in marine energy fluxes and nutrient cycles by incorporating and redistributing dissolved organic matter and inorganic nutrients in the oceans. How these microorganisms do this work at the level of the expressed protein is known only from a few studies of targeted lineages. We used comparative membrane metaproteomics to identify functional responses of communities to different nutrient concentrations on an oceanic scale. Comparative analyses of microbial membrane fractions revealed shifts in nutrient utilization and energy transduction along an environmental gradient in South Atlantic surface waters, from a low-nutrient gyre to a highly productive coastal upwelling region. The dominant membrane proteins identified (19%) were TonB-dependent transporters (TBDTs), which are known to utilize a proton motive force to transport nutrients across the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria. The ocean-wide importance of TonB-dependent nutrient acquisition in marine bacteria was unsuspected. Diverse light-harvesting rhodopsins were detected in membrane proteomes from every sample. Proteomic evidence of both TBDTs and rhodopsins in the same lineages suggest that phototrophic bacterioplankton have the potential to use energy from light to fuel transport activities. We also identified viral proteins in every sample and archaeal ammonia monooxygenase proteins in the upwelling region, suggesting that Archaea are important nitrifiers in nutrient-rich surface waters.

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