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PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e30931. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030931. Epub 2012 Feb 17.

Analysis of the global ocean sampling (GOS) project for trends in iron uptake by surface ocean microbes.

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UPMC Univ Paris 06, UMR 7232, Observatoire Océanologique, Banyuls-sur-Mer, France.


Microbial metagenomes are DNA samples of the most abundant, and therefore most successful organisms at the sampling time and location for a given cell size range. The study of microbial communities via their DNA content has revolutionized our understanding of microbial ecology and evolution. Iron availability is a critical resource that limits microbial communities' growth in many oceanic areas. Here, we built a database of 2319 sequences, corresponding to 140 gene families of iron metabolism with a large phylogenetic spread, to explore the microbial strategies of iron acquisition in the ocean's bacterial community. We estimate iron metabolism strategies from metagenome gene content and investigate whether their prevalence varies with dissolved iron concentrations obtained from a biogeochemical model. We show significant quantitative and qualitative variations in iron metabolism pathways, with a higher proportion of iron metabolism genes in low iron environments. We found a striking difference between coastal and open ocean sites regarding Fe(2+) versus Fe(3+) uptake gene prevalence. We also show that non-specific siderophore uptake increases in low iron open ocean environments, suggesting bacteria may acquire iron from natural siderophore-like organic complexes. Despite the lack of knowledge of iron uptake mechanisms in most marine microorganisms, our approach provides insights into how the iron metabolic pathways of microbial communities may vary with seawater iron concentrations.

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