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  1. Biddle, Jennifer F. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Extracellular vesicles are small (approximately 50 to 250 nm in diameter), membrane-bound structures that are released by cells into their surrounding environment. Heterogeneous populations of vesicles are abundant in the global oceans, and they likely play a number of ecological roles in these microbially dominated ecosystems. Here, we examine how vesicle production and size vary among different strains of cultivated marine microbes as well as explore the degree to which this is influenced by key environmental variables. We show that both vesicle production rates and vesicle sizes significantly differ among cultures of marine Proteobacteria, Cyanobacteria, and Bacteroidetes. Further, these properties vary within individual strains as a function of differences in environmental conditions, such as nutrients, temperature, and light irradiance. Thus, both community composition and the local abiotic environment are expected to modulate the production and standing stock of vesicles in the oceans. Examining samples from the oligotrophic North Pacific Gyre, we show depth-dependent changes in the abundance of vesicle-like particles in the upper water column in a manner that is broadly consistent with culture observations: the highest vesicle abundances are found near the surface, where the light irradiances and the temperatures are the greatest, and they then decrease with depth. This work represents the beginnings of a quantitative framework for describing extracellular vesicle dynamics in the oceans, which is essential as we begin to incorporate vesicles into our ecological and biogeochemical understanding of marine ecosystems. IMPORTANCE Bacteria release extracellular vesicles that contain a wide variety of cellular compounds, including lipids, proteins, nucleic acids, and small molecules, into their surrounding environment. These structures are found in diverse microbial habitats, including the oceans, where their distributions vary throughout the water column and likely affect their functional impacts within microbial ecosystems. Using a quantitative analysis of marine microbial cultures, we show that bacterial vesicle production in the oceans is shaped by a combination of biotic and abiotic factors. Different marine taxa release vesicles at rates that vary across an order of magnitude, and vesicle production changes dynamically as a function of environmental conditions. These findings represent a step forward in our understanding of bacterial extracellular vesicle production dynamics and provide a basis for the quantitative exploration of the factors that shape vesicle dynamics in natural ecosystems. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 28, 2024
  2. Alteromonas macleodii is a marine heterotrophic bacterium with widespread distribution − from temperate to tropical oceans, and from surface to deep waters. Strains of A. macleodii exhibit considerable genomic and metabolic variability, and can grow rapidly on diverse organic compounds. A. macleodii is a model organism for the study of population genomics, physiological adaptations and microbial interactions, with individual genomes encoding diverse phenotypic traits influenced by recombination and horizontal gene transfer. 
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  3. Phage satellites are mobile genetic elements that propagate by parasitizing bacteriophage replication. We report here the discovery of abundant and diverse phage satellites that were packaged as concatemeric repeats within naturally occurring bacteriophage particles in seawater. These same phage-parasitizing mobile elements were found integrated in the genomes of dominant co-occurring bacterioplankton species. Like known phage satellites, many marine phage satellites encoded genes for integration, DNA replication, phage interference, and capsid assembly. Many also contained distinctive gene suites indicative of unique virus hijacking, phage immunity, and mobilization mechanisms. Marine phage satellite sequences were widespread in local and global oceanic virioplankton populations, reflecting their ubiquity, abundance, and temporal persistence in marine planktonic communities worldwide. Their gene content and putative life cycles suggest they may impact host-cell phage immunity and defense, lateral gene transfer, bacteriophage-induced cell mortality and cellular host and virus productivity. Given that marine phage satellites cannot be distinguished from bona fide viral particles via commonly used microscopic techniques, their predicted numbers (∼3.2 × 10 26 in the ocean) may influence current estimates of virus densities, production, and virus-induced mortality. In total, the data suggest that marine phage satellites have potential to significantly impact the ecology and evolution of bacteria and their viruses throughout the oceans. We predict that any habitat that harbors bacteriophage will also harbor similar phage satellites, making them a ubiquitous feature of most microbiomes on Earth. 
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