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ISME J. 2014 Jan;8(1):52-62. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2013.133. Epub 2013 Aug 29.

Physiologic and metagenomic attributes of the rhodoliths forming the largest CaCO3 bed in the South Atlantic Ocean.

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Institute of Biology, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Instituto de Pesquisas Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Laboratory of Genomic Research on Pathogenic Bacteria, International Research Center for Infectious Diseases, Research Institute for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University, Osaka, Japan.
Laboratory of Microbiology, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan.
Environmental Science Laboratory, Campos dos Goytacazes, UENF, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Department of Engineering and Environment, Federal University of Paraíba, Paraíba, Brazil.


Rhodoliths are free-living coralline algae (Rhodophyta, Corallinales) that are ecologically important for the functioning of marine environments. They form extensive beds distributed worldwide, providing a habitat and nursery for benthic organisms and space for fisheries, and are an important source of calcium carbonate. The Abrolhos Bank, off eastern Brazil, harbors the world's largest continuous rhodolith bed (of ∼21,000 km(2)) and has one of the largest marine CaCO3 deposits (producing 25 megatons of CaCO3 per year). Nevertheless, there is a lack of information about the microbial diversity, photosynthetic potential and ecological interactions within the rhodolith holobiont. Herein, we performed an ecophysiologic and metagenomic analysis of the Abrolhos rhodoliths to understand their microbial composition and functional components. Rhodoliths contained a specific microbiome that displayed a significant enrichment in aerobic ammonia-oxidizing betaproteobacteria and dissimilative sulfate-reducing deltaproteobacteria. We also observed a significant contribution of bacterial guilds (that is, photolithoautotrophs, anaerobic heterotrophs, sulfide oxidizers, anoxygenic phototrophs and methanogens) in the rhodolith metagenome, suggested to have important roles in biomineralization. The increased hits in aromatic compounds, fatty acid and secondary metabolism subsystems hint at an important chemically mediated interaction in which a functional job partition among eukaryal, archaeal and bacterial groups allows the rhodolith holobiont to thrive in the global ocean. High rates of photosynthesis were measured for Abrolhos rhodoliths (52.16 μmol carbon m(-2 )s(-1)), allowing the entire Abrolhos rhodolith bed to produce 5.65 × 10(5) tons C per day. This estimate illustrates the great importance of the Abrolhos rhodolith beds for dissolved carbon production in the South Atlantic Ocean.

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