Indexed on: 19 Dec '12Published on: 19 Dec '12Published in: Frontiers in microbiology
Microbial communities play a key role in the marine carbon cycle, processing much of phytoplankton-derived organic matter. The composition of these communities varies by depth, season, and location in the ocean; the functional consequences of these compositional variations for the carbon cycle are only beginning to be explored. We measured the abilities of microbial communities in the large-particle fraction (retained by a 10-μm pore-size cartridge filter) to enzymatically hydrolyze high molecular weight substrates, and therefore initiate carbon remineralization in four distinct oceanic provinces: the boreal polar (BPLR), the Arctic oceanic (ARCT), the North Atlantic drift (NADR), and the North Atlantic subtropical (NAST) provinces. Since we expected the large-particle fraction to include phytoplankton cells, we measured the hydrolysis of polysaccharide substrates (laminarin, fucoidan, xylan, and chondroitin sulfate) expected to be associated with phytoplankton. Hydrolysis rates and patterns clustered into two groups, the BPLR/ARCT and the NADR/NAST. All four substrates were hydrolyzed by the BPLR/ARCT communities; hydrolysis rates of individual substrate varied by factors of ca. 1-4. In contrast, chondroitin was not hydrolyzed in the NADR/NAST, and hydrolytic activity was dominated by laminarinase. Fluorescence in situ hybridization of the large-particle fraction post-incubation showed a substantial contribution (15-26%) of CF319a-positive cells (Bacteroidetes) to total DAPI-stainable cells. Concurrent studies of microbial community composition and of fosmids from these same stations also demonstrated similarities between BPLR and ARCT stations, which were distinct from the NADR/NAST stations. Together, these data support a picture of compositionally as well as functionally distinct communities across these oceanic provinces.