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Biometals. 2019 Feb;32(1):139-154. doi: 10.1007/s10534-018-00163-3. Epub 2019 Jan 8.

Distribution of dissolved iron and bacteria producing the photoactive siderophore, vibrioferrin, in waters off Southern California and Northern Baja.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, 92182-1030, USA.
Department of Biological Oceanography, Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada, Ensenada, BC, Mexico.
Department of Biology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, 92182, USA.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, CA, 92093, USA.
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, 92182-1030, USA.


Phytoplankton blooms can cause acute effects on marine ecosystems due either to their production of endogenous toxins or to their enormous biomass leading to major impacts on local economies and public health. Despite years of effort, the causes of these Harmful Algal Blooms are still not fully understood. Our hypothesis is that bacteria that produce photoactive siderophores may provide a bioavailable source of iron for phytoplankton which could in turn stimulate algal growth and support bloom dynamics. Here we correlate iron concentrations, phytoplankton cell counts, bacterial cell abundance, and copy numbers for a photoactive siderophore vibrioferrin biosynthesis gene in water samples taken from 2017 cruises in the Gulf of California, and the Pacific Ocean off the coast of northern Baja California as well as during a multiyear sampling at Scripps Pier in San Diego, CA. We find that bacteria producing the photoactive siderophore vibrioferrin, make up a surprisingly high percentage of total bacteria in Pacific/Gulf of California coastal waters (up to 9%). Vibroferrin's unique properties and the widespread prevalence of its bacterial producers suggest that it may contribute significantly to generating bioavailability of iron via photoredox reactions.


Bacteria; Gulf of California; HAB; Iron; Pacific ocean; Photoactive; Siderophores; Vibrioferrin

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