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  1. Abstract Background

    Diverse communities of microbial eukaryotes in the global ocean provide a variety of essential ecosystem services, from primary production and carbon flow through trophic transfer to cooperation via symbioses. Increasingly, these communities are being understood through the lens of omics tools, which enable high-throughput processing of diverse communities. Metatranscriptomics offers an understanding of near real-time gene expression in microbial eukaryotic communities, providing a window into community metabolic activity.


    Here we present a workflow for eukaryotic metatranscriptome assembly, and validate the ability of the pipeline to recapitulate real and manufactured eukaryotic community-level expression data. We also include an open-source tool for simulating environmental metatranscriptomes for testing and validation purposes. We reanalyze previously published metatranscriptomic datasets using our metatranscriptome analysis approach.


    We determined that a multi-assembler approach improves eukaryotic metatranscriptome assembly based on recapitulated taxonomic and functional annotations from an in-silico mock community. The systematic validation of metatranscriptome assembly and annotation methods provided here is a necessary step to assess the fidelity of our community composition measurements and functional content assignments from eukaryotic metatranscriptomes.

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  2. Abstract

    Phago-mixotrophy, the combination of photoautotrophy and phagotrophy in mixoplankton, organisms that can combine both trophic strategies, have gained increasing attention over the past decade. It is now recognized that a substantial number of protistan plankton species engage in phago-mixotrophy to obtain nutrients for growth and reproduction under a range of environmental conditions. Unfortunately, our current understanding of mixoplankton in aquatic systems significantly lags behind our understanding of zooplankton and phytoplankton, limiting our ability to fully comprehend the role of mixoplankton (and phago-mixotrophy) in the plankton food web and biogeochemical cycling. Here, we put forward five research directions that we believe will lead to major advancement in the field: (i) evolution: understanding mixotrophy in the context of the evolutionary transition from phagotrophy to photoautotrophy; (ii) traits and trade-offs: identifying the key traits and trade-offs constraining mixotrophic metabolisms; (iii) biogeography: large-scale patterns of mixoplankton distribution; (iv) biogeochemistry and trophic transfer: understanding mixoplankton as conduits of nutrients and energy; and (v) in situ methods: improving the identification of in situ mixoplankton and their phago-mixotrophic activity.

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  3. Microeukaryotes (protists) serve fundamental roles in the marine environment as contributors to biogeochemical nutrient cycling and ecosystem function. Their activities can be inferred through metatranscriptomic investigations, which provide a detailed view into cellular processes, chemical-biological interactions in the environment, and ecological relationships among taxonomic groups. Established workflows have been individually put forth describing biomass collection at sea, laboratory RNA extraction protocols, and bioinformatic processing and computational approaches. Here, we present a compilation of current practices and lessons learned in carrying out metatranscriptomics of marine pelagic protistan communities, highlighting effective strategies and tools used by practitioners over the past decade. We anticipate that these guidelines will serve as a roadmap for new marine scientists beginning in the realms of molecular biology and/or bioinformatics, and will equip readers with foundational principles needed to delve into protistan metatranscriptomics. 
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  4. Abstract

    In the California Current Ecosystem, upwelled water low in dissolved iron (Fe) can limit phytoplankton growth, altering the elemental stoichiometry of the particulate matter and dissolved macronutrients. Iron-limited diatoms can increase biogenic silica (bSi) content >2-fold relative to that of particulate organic carbon (C) and nitrogen (N), which has implications for carbon export efficiency given the ballasted nature of the silica-based diatom cell wall. Understanding the molecular and physiological drivers of this altered cellular stoichiometry would foster a predictive understanding of how low Fe affects diatom carbon export. In an artificial upwelling experiment, water from 96 m depth was incubated shipboard and left untreated or amended with dissolved Fe or the Fe-binding siderophore desferrioxamine-B (+DFB) to induce Fe-limitation. After 120 h, diatoms dominated the communities in all treatments and displayed hallmark signatures of Fe-limitation in the +DFB treatment, including elevated particulate Si:C and Si:N ratios. Single-cell, taxon-resolved measurements revealed no increase in bSi content during Fe-limitation despite higher transcript abundance of silicon transporters and silicanin-1. Based on these findings we posit that the observed increase in bSi relative to C and N was primarily due to reductions in C fixation and N assimilation, driven by lower transcript expression of key Fe-dependent genes.

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  5. Abstract

    Scarce dissolved surface ocean concentrations of the essential algal micronutrient zinc suggest that Zn may influence the growth of phytoplankton such as diatoms, which are major contributors to marine primary productivity. However, the specific mechanisms by which diatoms acclimate to Zn deficiency are poorly understood. Using global proteomic analysis, we identified two proteins (ZCRP-A/B, Zn/Co Responsive Protein A/B) among four diatom species that became abundant under Zn/Co limitation. Characterization using reverse genetic techniques and homology data suggests putative Zn/Co chaperone and membrane-bound transport complex component roles for ZCRP-A (a COG0523 domain protein) and ZCRP-B, respectively. Metaproteomic detection of ZCRPs along a Pacific Ocean transect revealed increased abundances at the surface (<200 m) where dZn and dCo were scarcest, implying Zn nutritional stress in marine algae is more prevalent than previously recognized. These results demonstrate multiple adaptive responses to Zn scarcity in marine diatoms that are deployed in low Zn regions of the Pacific Ocean.

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  6. Abstract

    The keystone marine nitrogen fixerTrichodesmiumthrives in high-dust environments. While laboratory investigations have observed thatTrichodesmiumcolonies can access the essential nutrient iron from dust particles, less clear are the biochemical strategies underlying particle–colony interactions in nature. Here we demonstrate thatTrichodesmiumcolonies engage with mineral particles in the wild with distinct molecular responses. We encountered particle-ladenTrichodesmiumcolonies at a sampling location in the Southern Caribbean Sea; microscopy and synchrotron-based imaging then demonstrated heterogeneous associations with iron oxide and iron-silicate minerals. Metaproteomic analysis of individual colonies by a new low-biomass approach revealed responses in biogeochemically relevant proteins including photosynthesis proteins and metalloproteins containing iron, nickel, copper, and zinc. The iron-storage protein ferritin was particularly enriched implying accumulation of mineral-derived iron, and multiple iron acquisition pathways including Fe(II), Fe(III), and Fe-siderophore transporters were engaged. While the particles provided key trace metals such as iron and nickel, there was also evidence thatTrichodesmiumwas altering its strategy to confront increased superoxide production and metal exposure. Chemotaxis regulators also responded to mineral presence suggesting involvement in particle entrainment. These molecular responses are fundamental toTrichodesmium’secological success and global biogeochemical impact, and may contribute to the leaching of particulate trace metals with implications for global iron and carbon cycling.

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  7. null (Ed.)
  8. Abstract. Bioactive trace metals are critical micronutrients for marinemicroorganisms due to their role in mediating biological redox reactions,and complex biogeochemical processes control their distributions.Hydrothermal vents may represent an important source of metals tomicroorganisms, especially those inhabiting low-iron waters, such as in thesouthwest Pacific Ocean. Previous measurements of primordial 3Heindicate a significant hydrothermal source originating in the northeastern (NE)Lau Basin, with the plume advecting into the southwest Pacific Ocean at1500–2000 m depth (Lupton etal., 2004). Studies investigating the long-range transport of trace metalsassociated with such dispersing plumes are rare, and the biogeochemicalimpacts on local microbial physiology have not yet been described. Here wequantified dissolved metals and assessed microbial metaproteomes across atransect spanning the tropical and equatorial Pacific with a focus on thehydrothermally active NE Lau Basin and report elevated iron and manganeseconcentrations across 441 km of the southwest Pacific. The most intensesignal was detected near the Mangatolo Triple Junction (MTJ) and NortheastLau Spreading Center (NELSC), in close proximity to the previously reported3He signature. Protein content in distal-plume-influenced seawater,which was high in metals, was overall similar to background locations,though key prokaryotic proteins involved in metal and organic uptake,protein degradation, and chemoautotrophy were abundant compared to deepwaters outside of the distal plume. Our results demonstrate that tracemetals derived from the NE Lau Basin are transported over appreciabledistances into the southwest Pacific Ocean and that bioactive chemicalresources released from submarine vent systems are utilized by surroundingdeep-sea microbes, influencing both their physiology and their contributionsto ocean biogeochemical cycling. 
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  9. null (Ed.)
    Marine microeukaryotes play a fundamental role in biogeochemical cycling through the transfer of energy to higher trophic levels and vertical carbon transport. Despite their global importance, microeukaryote physiology, nutrient metabolism and contributions to carbon cycling across offshore ecosystems are poorly characterized. Here, we observed the prevalence of dinoflagellates along a 4,600-km meridional transect extending across the central Pacific Ocean, where oligotrophic gyres meet equatorial upwelling waters rich in macronutrients yet low in dissolved iron. A combined multi-omics and geochemical analysis provided a window into dinoflagellate metabolism across the transect, indicating a continuous taxonomic dinoflagellate community that shifted its functional transcriptome and proteome as it extended from the euphotic to the mesopelagic zone. In euphotic waters, multi-omics data suggested that a combination of trophic modes were utilized, while mesopelagic metabolism was marked by cytoskeletal investments and nutrient recycling. Rearrangement in nutrient metabolism was evident in response to variable nitrogen and iron regimes across the gradient, with no associated change in community assemblage. Total dinoflagellate proteins scaled with particulate carbon export, with both elevated in equatorial waters, suggesting a link between dinoflagellate abundance and total carbon flux. Dinoflagellates employ numerous metabolic strategies that enable broad occupation of central Pacific ecosystems and play a dual role in carbon transformation through both photosynthetic fixation in the euphotic zone and remineralization in the mesopelagic zone. 
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