Community analysis of high- and low-nucleic acid-containing bacteria in NW Mediterranean coastal waters using 16S rDNA pyrosequencing


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The ecological significance of the marine bacterial populations distinguishable by flow cytometry on the basis of the fluorescence (FL) of their nucleic acid (NA) content and proxies of cell size (such as side scatter, SSC) remains largely unknown. Some studies have suggested that cells with high NA (HNA) content and high SSC (HS) represent the active members of the community, while the low NA (LNA) cells are inactive members of the same phylogenetic groups. But group-specific activity measurements and phylogenetic assignment after cell sorting have suggested this is not be the case, particularly in open-ocean communities. To test the extent to which the different NA subgroups are similar, and consequently the extent to which they likely have similar ecological and biogeochemical roles in the environment, we analysed the phylogenetic composition of three populations after cell sorting [high NA-high SC (HNA-HS), high NA-low SC (HNA-LS), low NA (LNA)] by 454 pyrosequencing in two contrasting periods of the year in NW Mediterranean coastal waters (BBMO, Blanes Bay Microbial Observatory) where these three populations have recurrent seasonal patterns. Statistical analyses showed that summer and winter samples were significantly different and, importantly, the sorted populations within a sample were composed of different taxa. The majority of taxa were associated with one NA fraction only, and the degree of overlap (i.e. OTUs present simultaneously in 2 fractions) between HNA and LNA and between summer and winter communities was very small. Rhodobacterales, SAR116 and Bacteroidetes contributed primarily to the HNA fraction, whereas other groups such as SAR11 and SAR86 contributed largely to the LNA fractions. Gammaproteobacteria other than SAR86 showed less preference for one particular NA fraction. An increase in diversity was observed from the LNA to the HNA-HS fraction for both sample dates. Our results suggest that, in Blanes Bay, flow cytometric signatures of natural communities track their phylogenetic composition.