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  1. Buchan, Alison (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT <p>The physiology and ecology of particle-associated marine bacteria are of growing interest, but our knowledge of their aggregation behavior and mechanisms controlling their association with particles remains limited. We have found that a particle-associated isolate,<italic>Alteromonas</italic>sp. ALT199 strain 4B03, and the related type-strain<italic>A. macleodii</italic>27126 both form large (>500 μm) aggregates while growing in rich medium. A non-clumping variant (NCV) of 4B03 spontaneously arose in the lab, and whole-genome sequencing revealed a partial deletion in the gene encoding UDP-glucose-4-epimerase (<italic>galEΔ</italic>308–324). In 27126, a knock-out of<italic>galE</italic>(<italic>ΔgalE</italic>::km<sup>r</sup>) resulted in a loss of aggregation, mimicking the NCV. Microscopic analysis shows that both 4B03 and 27126 rapidly form large aggregates, whereas their respective<italic>galE</italic>mutants remain primarily as single planktonic cells or clusters of a few cells. Strains 4B03 and 27126 also form aggregates with chitin particles, but their<italic>galE</italic>mutants do not. Alcian Blue staining shows that 4B03 and 27126 produce large transparent exopolymer particles (TEP), but their<italic>galE</italic>mutants are deficient in this regard. This study demonstrates the capabilities of cell-cell aggregation, aggregation of chitin particles, and production of TEP in strains of<italic>Alteromonas</italic>, a widespread particle-associated genus of heterotrophic marine bacteria. A genetic requirement for<italic>galE</italic>is evident for each of the above capabilities, expanding the known breadth of requirement for this gene in biofilm-related processes.</p></sec> <sec><title>IMPORTANCE

    Heterotrophic marine bacteria have a central role in the global carbon cycle. Well-known for releasing CO2 by decomposition and respiration, they may also contribute to particulate organic matter (POM) aggregation, which can promote CO2 sequestration via the formation of marine snow. We find that two members of the prevalent particle-associated genusAlteromonascan form aggregates comprising cells alone or cells and chitin particles, indicating their ability to drive POM aggregation. In line with their multivalent aggregation capability, both strains produce TEP, an excreted polysaccharide central to POM aggregation in the ocean. We demonstrate a genetic requirement forgalEin aggregation and large TEP formation, building our mechanistic understanding of these aggregative capabilities. These findings point toward a role for heterotrophic bacteria in POM aggregation in the ocean and support broader efforts to understand bacterial controls on the global carbon cycle based on microbial activities, community structure, and meta-omic profiling.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 3, 2025
  2. Abstract

    Iron is an essential nutrient for all microorganisms of the marine environment. Iron limitation of primary production has been well documented across a significant portion of the global surface ocean, but much less is known regarding the potential for iron limitation of the marine heterotrophic microbial community. In this work, we characterize the transcriptomic response of the heterotrophic bacterial community to iron additions in the California Current System, an eastern boundary upwelling system, to detect in situ iron stress of heterotrophic bacteria. Changes in gene expression in response to iron availability by heterotrophic bacteria were detected under conditions of high productivity when carbon limitation was relieved but when iron availability remained low. The ratio of particulate organic carbon to dissolved iron emerged as a biogeochemical proxy for iron limitation of heterotrophic bacteria in this system. Iron stress was characterized by high expression levels of iron transport pathways and decreased expression of iron-containing enzymes involved in carbon metabolism, where a majority of the heterotrophic bacterial iron requirement resides. Expression of iron stress biomarkers, as identified in the iron-addition experiments, was also detected insitu. These results suggest iron availability will impact the processing of organic matter by heterotrophic bacteria with potential consequences for the marine biological carbon pump.

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  3. Abstract

    It is now widely accepted that siderophores play a role in marine iron biogeochemical cycling. However, the mechanisms by which siderophores affect the availability of iron from specific sources and the resulting significance of these processes on iron biogeochemical cycling as a whole have remained largely untested. In this study, we develop a model system for testing the effects of siderophore production on iron bioavailability using the marine copiotroph Alteromonas macleodii ATCC 27126. Through the generation of the knockout cell line ΔasbB::kmr, which lacks siderophore biosynthetic capabilities, we demonstrate that the production of the siderophore petrobactin enables the acquisition of iron from mineral sources and weaker iron-ligand complexes. Notably, the utilization of lithogenic iron, such as that from atmospheric dust, indicates a significant role for siderophores in the incorporation of new iron into marine systems. We have also detected petrobactin, a photoreactive siderophore, directly from seawater in the mid-latitudes of the North Pacific and have identified the biosynthetic pathway for petrobactin in bacterial metagenome-assembled genomes widely distributed across the global ocean. Together, these results improve our mechanistic understanding of the role of siderophore production in iron biogeochemical cycling in the marine environment wherein iron speciation, bioavailability, and residence time can be directly influenced by microbial activities.

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  4. In nitrogen-limited boreal forests, associations between feathermoss and diazotrophic cyanobacteria control nitrogen inputs and thus carbon cycling, but little is known about the molecular regulators required for initiation and maintenance of these associations. Specifically, a benefit to the cyanobacteria is not known, challenging whether the association is a nutritional mutualism. Targeted mutagenesis of the cyanobacterial alkane sulfonate monooxygenase results in an inability to colonize feathermosses by the cyanobacterium Nostoc punctiforme, suggesting a role for organic sulfur in communication or nutrition. Isotope probing paired with high-resolution imaging mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) demonstrated bidirectional elemental transfer between partners, with carbon and sulfur both being transferred to the cyanobacteria, and nitrogen transferred to the moss. These results support the hypothesis that moss and cyanobacteria enter a mutualistic exosymbiosis with substantial bidirectional material exchange of carbon and nitrogen and potential signaling through sulfur compounds. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
  6. Abstract

    Little is known about early plastic biofilm assemblage dynamics and successional changes over time. By incubating virgin microplastics along oceanic transects and comparing adhered microbial communities with those of naturally occurring plastic litter at the same locations, we constructed gene catalogues to contrast the metabolic differences between early and mature biofilm communities. Early colonization incubations were reproducibly dominated by Alteromonadaceae and harboured significantly higher proportions of genes associated with adhesion, biofilm formation, chemotaxis, hydrocarbon degradation and motility. Comparative genomic analyses among the Alteromonadaceae metagenome assembled genomes (MAGs) highlighted the importance of the mannose‐sensitive hemagglutinin (MSHA) operon, recognized as a key factor for intestinal colonization, for early colonization of hydrophobic plastic surfaces. Synteny alignments of MSHA also demonstrated positive selection formshAalleles across all MAGs, suggesting thatmshAprovides a competitive advantage for surface colonization and nutrient acquisition. Large‐scale genomic characteristics of early colonizers varied little, despite environmental variability. Mature plastic biofilms were composed of predominantly Rhodobacteraceae and displayed significantly higher proportions of carbohydrate hydrolysis enzymes and genes for photosynthesis and secondary metabolism. Our metagenomic analyses provide insight into early biofilm formation on plastics in the ocean and how early colonizers self‐assemble, compared to mature, phylogenetically and metabolically diverse biofilms.

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  7. Abstract

    The genus Nitrospira is the most widespread group of nitrite-oxidizing bacteria and thrives in diverse natural and engineered ecosystems. Nitrospira marina Nb-295T was isolated from the ocean over 30 years ago; however, its genome has not yet been analyzed. Here, we investigated the metabolic potential of N. marina based on its complete genome sequence and performed physiological experiments to test genome-derived hypotheses. Our data confirm that N. marina benefits from additions of undefined organic carbon substrates, has adaptations to resist oxidative, osmotic, and UV light-induced stress and low dissolved pCO2, and requires exogenous vitamin B12. In addition, N. marina is able to grow chemoorganotrophically on formate, and is thus not an obligate chemolithoautotroph. We further investigated the proteomic response of N. marina to low (∼5.6 µM) O2 concentrations. The abundance of a potentially more efficient CO2-fixing pyruvate:ferredoxin oxidoreductase (POR) complex and a high-affinity cbb3-type terminal oxidase increased under O2 limitation, suggesting a role in sustaining nitrite oxidation-driven autotrophy. This putatively more O2-sensitive POR complex might be protected from oxidative damage by Cu/Zn-binding superoxide dismutase, which also increased in abundance under low O2 conditions. Furthermore, the upregulation of proteins involved in alternative energy metabolisms, including Group 3b [NiFe] hydrogenase and formate dehydrogenase, indicate a high metabolic versatility to survive conditions unfavorable for aerobic nitrite oxidation. In summary, the genome and proteome of the first marine Nitrospira isolate identifies adaptations to life in the oxic ocean and provides insights into the metabolic diversity and niche differentiation of NOB in marine environments.

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  8. Subsurface chlorophyll maximum layers (SCMLs) are nearly ubiquitous in stratified water columns and exist at horizontal scales ranging from the submesoscale to the extent of oligotrophic gyres. These layers of heightened chlorophyll and/or phytoplankton concentrations are generally thought to be a consequence of a balance between light energy from above and a limiting nutrient flux from below, typically nitrate (NO3). Here we present multiple lines of evidence demonstrating that iron (Fe) limits or with light colimits phytoplankton communities in SCMLs along a primary productivity gradient from coastal to oligotrophic offshore waters in the southern California Current ecosystem. SCML phytoplankton responded markedly to added Fe or Fe/light in experimental incubations and transcripts of diatom and picoeukaryote Fe stress genes were strikingly abundant in SCML metatranscriptomes. Using a biogeochemical proxy with data from a 40-y time series, we find that diatoms growing in California Current SCMLs are persistently Fe deficient during the spring and summer growing season. We also find that the spatial extent of Fe deficiency within California Current SCMLs has significantly increased over the last 25 y in line with a regional climate index. Finally, we show that diatom Fe deficiency may be common in the subsurface of major upwelling zones worldwide. Our results have important implications for our understanding of the biogeochemical consequences of marine SCML formation and maintenance.

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