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Summary

Heterotrophic marine bacteria play key roles in remineralizing organic matter generated from primary production. However, far more is known about which groups are dominant than about the cellular processes they perform in order to become dominant. In the Southern Ocean, eukaryotic phytoplankton are the dominant primary producers. In this study we used metagenomics and metaproteomics to determine how the dominant bacterial and archaeal plankton processed bloom material. We examined the microbial community composition in 14 metagenomes and found that the relative abundance of Flavobacteria (dominated by Polaribacter) was positively correlated with chlorophyll a fluorescence, and the relative abundance of SAR11 was inversely correlated with both fluorescence and Flavobacteria abundance. By performing metaproteomics on the sample with the highest relative abundance of Flavobacteria (Newcomb Bay, East Antarctica) we defined how Flavobacteria attach to and degrade diverse complex organic material, how they make labile compounds available to Alphaproteobacteria (especially SAR11) and Gammaproteobacteria, and how these heterotrophic Proteobacteria target and utilize these nutrients. The presence of methylotrophic proteins for archaea and bacteria also indicated the importance of metabolic specialists. Overall, the study provides functional data for the microbial mechanisms of nutrient cycling at the surface of the coastal Southern Ocean.