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Syst Appl Microbiol. 2011 Sep;34(6):470-5. doi: 10.1016/j.syapm.2011.01.008. Epub 2011 May 19.

Phylogenetic characterisation of picoplanktonic populations with high and low nucleic acid content in the North Atlantic Ocean.

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Department of Molecular Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany.


In flow cytometric analyses of marine prokaryotic picoplankton often two populations with distinct differences in their apparent nucleic acid content are discernable, one with a high and one with a low nucleic acid content (HNA and LNA, respectively). In this study we determined the phylogenetic composition of flow cytometrically sorted HNA and LNA populations, collected at six stations along a transect across three oceanic provinces from Iceland to the Azores. Catalysed reporter deposition fluorescence in situ hybridisation (CARD-FISH) analysis of sorted cells revealed distinct differences in phylogenetic composition between the LNA and HNA populations with only little overlap. At all stations the LNA population was dominated by the alphaproteobacterial clade SAR11 (45-74%). Also, Betaproteobacteria were always present at 2-4%. While the LNA composition was rather stable, the HNA populations were composed of distinct phylogenetic clades in the different oceanic provinces of Arctic and Tropics. For example Cyanobacteria dominated the North Atlantic Gyre HNA population (29-44%) with Prochlorococcus as the major clade (34-44%), but were low in Arctic and Polar waters (1% and 5%, respectively). In contrast, Bacteroidetes accounted for the majority of HNA cells in the Polar and Arctic province (26% and 32%, respectively), but were low in the Gyre region (3-10%). The DNA content of the HNA population was about 3.5 times higher than that of the LNA populations. This reflects differences in the genome sizes of closely related cultured representatives of HNA clades (3-6Mbp) and LNA clades (1.3-1.5Mbp).

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