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Front Microbiol. 2015 May 19;6:469. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.00469. eCollection 2015.

Microbial community structure and function on sinking particles in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.

Author information

1
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA, USA.
2
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA, USA ; Department of Oceanography, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii Honolulu, HI, USA ; Daniel K. Inouye Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education, University of Hawaii Honolulu, HI, USA.
3
Department of Oceanography, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii Honolulu, HI, USA ; Daniel K. Inouye Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education, University of Hawaii Honolulu, HI, USA ; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Nuclear and Chemical Sciences Division Livermore, CA, USA.
4
Department of Oceanography, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii Honolulu, HI, USA ; Daniel K. Inouye Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education, University of Hawaii Honolulu, HI, USA.

Abstract

Sinking particles mediate the transport of carbon and energy to the deep-sea, yet the specific microbes associated with sedimenting particles in the ocean's interior remain largely uncharacterized. In this study, we used particle interceptor traps (PITs) to assess the nature of particle-associated microbial communities collected at a variety of depths in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Comparative metagenomics was used to assess differences in microbial taxa and functional gene repertoires in PITs containing a preservative (poisoned traps) compared to preservative-free traps where growth was allowed to continue in situ (live traps). Live trap microbial communities shared taxonomic and functional similarities with bacteria previously reported to be enriched in dissolved organic matter (DOM) microcosms (e.g., Alteromonas and Methylophaga), in addition to other particle and eukaryote-associated bacteria (e.g., Flavobacteriales and Pseudoalteromonas). Poisoned trap microbial assemblages were enriched in Vibrio and Campylobacterales likely associated with eukaryotic surfaces and intestinal tracts as symbionts, pathogens, or saprophytes. The functional gene content of microbial assemblages in poisoned traps included a variety of genes involved in virulence, anaerobic metabolism, attachment to chitinaceaous surfaces, and chitin degradation. The presence of chitinaceaous surfaces was also accompanied by the co-existence of bacteria which encoded the capacity to attach to, transport and metabolize chitin and its derivatives. Distinctly different microbial assemblages predominated in live traps, which were largely represented by copiotrophs and eukaryote-associated bacterial communities. Predominant sediment trap-assocaited eukaryotic phyla included Dinoflagellata, Metazoa (mostly copepods), Protalveolata, Retaria, and Stramenopiles. These data indicate the central role of eukaryotic taxa in structuring sinking particle microbial assemblages, as well as the rapid responses of indigenous microbial species in the degradation of marine particulate organic matter (POM) in situ in the ocean's interior.

KEYWORDS:

biological pump; marine particles; metagenomics; microbiology; sediment trap

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