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Nat Commun. 2015 Mar 31;6:6711. doi: 10.1038/ncomms7711.

Marine sequestration of carbon in bacterial metabolites.

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Department of Biological Sciences and Marine Science Program, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina 29208, USA.
Department of Analytical Chemistry, UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Permoserstraße 15, D-04318 Leipzig, Germany.
Research Unit, Analytical BioGeoChemistry (BGC), Helmholtz Zentrum Muenchen (HMGU), German Research Center for Environmental Health, Ingolstädter Landstraße 1, D-85764 Neuherberg, Germany.
Bruker Daltonik GmbH, Fahrenheitstrasse 4, D-28359 Bremen, Germany.


Linking microbial metabolomics and carbon sequestration in the ocean via refractory organic molecules has been hampered by the chemical complexity of dissolved organic matter (DOM). Here, using bioassay experiments and ultra-high resolution metabolic profiling, we demonstrate that marine bacteria rapidly utilize simple organic molecules and produce exometabolites of remarkable molecular and structural diversity. Bacterial DOM is similar in chemical composition and structural complexity to naturally occurring DOM in sea water. An appreciable fraction of bacterial DOM has molecular and structural properties that are consistent with those of refractory molecules in the ocean, indicating a dominant role for bacteria in shaping the refractory nature of marine DOM. The rapid production of chemically complex and persistent molecules from simple biochemicals demonstrates a positive feedback between primary production and refractory DOM formation. It appears that carbon sequestration in diverse and structurally complex dissolved molecules that persist in the environment is largely driven by bacteria.

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