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ISME J. 2019 May;13(5):1198-1208. doi: 10.1038/s41396-018-0315-6. Epub 2019 Jan 14.

Effect of large magnetotactic bacteria with polyphosphate inclusions on the phosphate profile of the suboxic zone in the Black Sea.

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Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde, Seestrasse 15, Rostock, 18119, Germany.
Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde, Seestrasse 15, Rostock, 18119, Germany.
Centre for Limnology, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Limnoloogia tee 1, Vehendi Village, Tartu, 61117, Estonia.


The Black Sea is the world's largest anoxic basin and a model system for studying processes across redox gradients. In between the oxic surface and the deeper sulfidic waters there is an unusually broad layer of 10-40 m, where neither oxygen nor sulfide are detectable. In this suboxic zone, dissolved phosphate profiles display a pronounced minimum at the upper and a maximum at the lower boundary, with a peak of particulate phosphorus in between, which was suggested to be caused by the sorption of phosphate on sinking particles of metal oxides. Here we show that bacterial polyphosphate inclusions within large magnetotactic bacteria related to the genus Magnetococcus contribute substantially to the observed phosphorus peak, as they contain 26-34% phosphorus compared to only 1-5% in metal-rich particles. Furthermore, we found increased gene expression for polyphosphate kinases by several groups of bacteria including Magnetococcaceae at the phosphate maximum, indicating active bacterial polyphosphate degradation. We propose that large magnetotactic bacteria shuttle up and down within the suboxic zone, scavenging phosphate at the upper and releasing it at the lower boundary. In contrast to a passive transport via metal oxides, this bacterial transport can quantitatively explain the observed phosphate profiles.

[Available on 2020-05-01]

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