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Summary

In vast areas of the oceans, most marine photosynthetic production is performed by cells smaller than 2–3 µm (picoplankton). Here, we report on denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analyses of naturally occurring marine oxygenic picophytoplankton using the conserved photosynthetic psbA gene. The psbA gene proved to be a good indicator for picophytoplankton presence and was shown to work with DGGE. The DGGE results show the distribution of photosynthetic marine groups belonging to cyanobacteria and the eukaryotic prasinophytes (green algae) in the Red and eastern Mediterranean Seas in the seasons examined. The present study demonstrates the value of DGGE as a tool for rapid analyses of natural marine communities of picophytoplankton.