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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2024
  2. Abstract

    Persistent nitrogen depletion in sunlit open ocean waters provides a favorable ecological niche for nitrogen-fixing (diazotrophic) cyanobacteria, some of which associate symbiotically with eukaryotic algae. All known marine examples of these symbioses have involved either centric diatom or haptophyte hosts. We report here the discovery and characterization of two distinct marine pennate diatom-diazotroph symbioses, which until now had only been observed in freshwater environments. Rhopalodiaceae diatomsEpithemia pelagicasp. nov. andEpithemia catenatasp. nov. were isolated repeatedly from the subtropical North Pacific Ocean, and analysis of sequence libraries reveals a global distribution. These symbioses likely escaped attention because the endosymbionts lack fluorescent photopigments, havenifHgene sequences similar to those of free-living unicellular cyanobacteria, and are lost in nitrogen-replete medium. Marine Rhopalodiaceae-diazotroph symbioses are a previously overlooked but widespread source of bioavailable nitrogen in marine habitats and provide new, easily cultured model organisms for the study of organelle evolution.

     
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  3. null (Ed.)
  4. Abstract

    The availability of fixed nitrogen (N) is an important factor limiting biological productivity in the oceans. In coastal waters, high dissolved inorganic N concentrations were historically thought to inhibit dinitrogen (N2) fixation, however, recent N2 fixation measurements and the presence of the N2-fixing UCYN-A/haptophyte symbiosis in nearshore waters challenge this paradigm. We characterized the contribution of UCYN-A symbioses to nearshore N2 fixation in the Southern California Current System (SCCS) by measuring bulk community and single-cell N2 fixation rates, as well as diazotroph community composition and abundance. UCYN-A1 and UCYN-A2 symbioses dominated diazotroph communities throughout the region during upwelling and oceanic seasons. Bulk N2 fixation was detected in most surface samples, with rates up to 23.0 ± 3.8 nmol N l−1 d−1, and was often detected at the deep chlorophyll maximum in the presence of nitrate (>1 µM). UCYN-A2 symbiosis N2 fixation rates were higher (151.1 ± 112.7 fmol N cell−1 d−1) than the UCYN-A1 symbiosis (6.6 ± 8.8 fmol N cell−1 d−1). N2 fixation by the UCYN-A1 symbiosis accounted for a majority of the measured bulk rates at two offshore stations, while the UCYN-A2 symbiosis was an important contributor in three nearshore stations. This report of active UCYN-A symbioses and broad mesoscale distribution patterns establishes UCYN-A symbioses as the dominant diazotrophs in the SCCS, where heterocyst-forming and unicellular cyanobacteria are less prevalent, and provides evidence that the two dominant UCYN-A sublineages are separate ecotypes.

     
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  5. null (Ed.)
    Abstract The microbial fixation of N 2 is the largest source of biologically available nitrogen (N) to the oceans. However, it is the most energetically expensive N-acquisition process and is believed inhibited when less energetically expensive forms, like dissolved inorganic N (DIN), are available. Curiously, the cosmopolitan N 2 -fixing UCYN-A/haptophyte symbiosis grows in DIN-replete waters, but the sensitivity of their N 2 fixation to DIN is unknown. We used stable isotope incubations, catalyzed reporter deposition fluorescence in-situ hybridization (CARD-FISH), and nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (nanoSIMS), to investigate the N source used by the haptophyte host and sensitivity of UCYN-A N 2 fixation in DIN-replete waters. We demonstrate that under our experimental conditions, the haptophyte hosts of two UCYN-A sublineages do not assimilate nitrate (NO 3 − ) and meet little of their N demands via ammonium (NH 4 + ) uptake. Instead the UCYN-A/haptophyte symbiosis relies on UCYN-A N 2 fixation to supply large portions of the haptophyte’s N requirements, even under DIN-replete conditions. Furthermore, UCYN-A N 2 fixation rates, and haptophyte host carbon fixation rates, were at times stimulated by NO 3 − additions in N-limited waters suggesting a link between the activities of the bulk phytoplankton assemblage and the UCYN-A/haptophyte symbiosis. The results suggest N 2 fixation may be an evolutionarily viable strategy for diazotroph–eukaryote symbioses, even in N-rich coastal or high latitude waters. 
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  6. Gilbert, Jack (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT The cyanobacterium Trichodesmium is an important contributor of new nitrogen (N) to the surface ocean, but its strategies for protecting the nitrogenase enzyme from inhibition by oxygen (O 2 ) remain poorly understood. We present a dynamic physiological model to evaluate hypothesized conditions that would allow Trichodesmium to carry out its two conflicting metabolic processes of N 2 fixation and photosynthesis. First, the model indicates that managing cellular O 2 to permit N 2 fixation requires high rates of respiratory O 2 consumption. The energetic cost amounts to ∼80% of daily C fixation, comparable to the observed diminution of the growth rate of Trichodesmium relative to other phytoplankton. Second, by forming a trichome of connected cells, Trichodesmium can segregate N 2 fixation from photosynthesis. The transfer of stored C to N-fixing cells fuels the respiratory O 2 consumption that protects nitrogenase, while the reciprocal transfer of newly fixed N to C-fixing cells supports cellular growth. Third, despite Trichodesmium lacking the structural barrier found in heterocystous species, the model predicts low diffusivity of cell membranes, a function that may be explained by the presence of Gram-negative membrane, production of extracellular polysaccharide substances (EPS), and “buffer cells” that intervene between N 2 -fixing and photosynthetic cells. Our results suggest that all three factors—respiratory protection, trichome formation, and diffusion barriers—represent essential strategies that, despite their energetic costs, facilitate the growth of Trichodesmium in the oligotrophic aerobic ocean and permit it to be a major source of new reactive nitrogen. IMPORTANCE Trichodesmium is a major nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium and exerts a significant influence on the oceanic nitrogen cycle. It is also a widely used model organism in laboratory studies. Since the nitrogen-fixing enzyme nitrogenase is extremely sensitive to oxygen, how these surface-dwelling plankton manage the two conflicting processes of nitrogen fixation and photosynthesis has been a long-standing question. In this study, we developed a simple model of metabolic fluxes of Trichodesmium capturing observed daily cycles of photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, and boundary layer oxygen concentrations. The model suggests that forming a chain of cells for spatially segregating nitrogen fixation and photosynthesis is essential but not sufficient. It also requires a barrier against oxygen diffusion and high rates of oxygen scavenging by respiration. Finally, the model indicates an extremely short life span of oxygen-enabling cells to instantly create a low-oxygen environment upon deactivation of photosynthesis. 
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  7. Assessment of the global budget of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O) is limited by poor knowledge of the oceanicN2O flux to the atmosphere, of which the magnitude, spatial distribution, and temporal variability remain highly uncertain. Here, we reconstruct climatologicalN2O emissions from the ocean by training a supervised learning algorithm with over 158,000N2O measurements from the surface ocean—the largest synthesis to date. The reconstruction captures observed latitudinal gradients and coastal hot spots ofN2O flux and reveals a vigorous global seasonal cycle. We estimate an annual meanN2O flux of 4.2 ± 1.0 Tg Ny1, 64% of which occurs in the tropics, and 20% in coastal upwelling systems that occupy less than 3% of the ocean area. ThisN2O flux ranges from a low of 3.3 ± 1.3 Tg Ny1in the boreal spring to a high of 5.5 ± 2.0 Tg Ny1in the boreal summer. Much of the seasonal variations in globalN2O emissions can be traced to seasonal upwelling in the tropical ocean and winter mixing in the Southern Ocean. The dominant contribution to seasonality by productive, low-oxygen tropical upwelling systems (>75%) suggests a sensitivity of the globalN2O flux to El Niño–Southern Oscillation and anthropogenic stratification of the low latitude ocean. This ocean flux estimate is consistent with the range adopted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but reduces its uncertainty by more than fivefold, enabling more precise determination of other terms in the atmosphericN2O budget.

     
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