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This content will become publicly available on March 15, 2023

Title: Phosphonate production by marine microbes: Exploring new sources and potential function
Phosphonates are organophosphorus metabolites with a characteristic C-P bond. They are ubiquitous in the marine environment, their degradation broadly supports ecosystem productivity, and they are key components of the marine phosphorus (P) cycle. However, the microbial producers that sustain the large oceanic inventory of phosphonates as well as the physiological and ecological roles of phosphonates are enigmatic. Here, we show that phosphonate synthesis genes are rare but widely distributed among diverse bacteria and archaea, including Prochlorococcus and SAR11, the two major groups of bacteria in the ocean. In addition, we show that Prochlorococcus can allocate over 40% of its total cellular P-quota toward phosphonate production. However, we find no evidence that Prochlorococcus uses phosphonates for surplus P storage, and nearly all producer genomes lack the genes necessary to degrade and assimilate phosphonates. Instead, we postulate that phosphonates are associated with cell-surface glycoproteins, suggesting that phosphonates mediate ecological interactions between the cell and its surrounding environment. Our findings indicate that the oligotrophic surface ocean phosphonate pool is sustained by a relatively small fraction of the bacterioplankton cells allocating a significant portion of their P quotas toward secondary metabolism and away from growth and reproduction.
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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National Science Foundation
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