Molecular diversity among marine picophytoplankton as revealed by psbA analyses


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Photosynthetic microorganisms play a crucial role in the marine environment. In vast areas of the oceans, marine primary productivity is performed by cells smaller than 2–3 µm (picoplankton). Here, we report on molecular analyses of the conserved photosynthetic psbA gene (coding for protein D1 of photosystem II reaction centre) as a diversity indicator of naturally occurring marine oxygenic picophytoplankton. The psbA genes proved to be good indicators of the presence of a wide variety of photosynthetic marine microbial groups, including new cyanobacterial groups and eukaryotic algae (prasinophytes). Furthermore, using environmental bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) libraries, we were able to correlate psbA genes with small subunit rRNAs and, therefore, to confirm their phylogenetic affiliation.