Use of stable isotope-labelled cells to identify active grazers of picocyanobacteria in ocean surface waters.

TitleUse of stable isotope-labelled cells to identify active grazers of picocyanobacteria in ocean surface waters.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsFrias-Lopez, J, Thompson, A, Waldbauer, J, Chisholm, SW
JournalEnviron Microbiol
Date Published2009 Feb
KeywordsAnimals, DNA, Protozoan, DNA, Ribosomal, Eukaryota, Feeding Behavior, Food Chain, Isotope Labeling, Isotopes, Molecular Sequence Data, Pacific Ocean, Prochlorococcus, RNA, Ribosomal, 18S, Seawater, Sequence Analysis, DNA, Synechococcus

Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus are the two most abundant marine cyanobacteria. They represent a significant fraction of the total primary production of the world oceans and comprise a major fraction of the prey biomass available to phagotrophic protists. Despite relatively rapid growth rates, picocyanobacterial cell densities in open-ocean surface waters remain fairly constant, implying steady mortality due to viral infection and consumption by predators. There have been several studies on grazing by specific protists on Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus in culture, and of cell loss rates due to overall grazing in the field. However, the specific sources of mortality of these primary producers in the wild remain unknown. Here, we use a modification of the RNA stable isotope probing technique (RNA-SIP), which involves adding labelled cells to natural seawater, to identify active predators that are specifically consuming Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus in the surface waters of the Pacific Ocean. Four major groups were identified as having their 18S rRNA highly labelled: Prymnesiophyceae (Haptophyta), Dictyochophyceae (Stramenopiles), Bolidomonas (Stramenopiles) and Dinoflagellata (Alveolata). For the first three of these, the closest relative of the sequences identified was a photosynthetic organism, indicating the presence of mixotrophs among picocyanobacterial predators. We conclude that the use of RNA-SIP is a useful method to identity specific predators for picocyanobacteria in situ, and that the method could possibly be used to identify other bacterial predators important in the microbial food-web.

Alternate JournalEnviron. Microbiol.
PubMed ID19196281
PubMed Central IDPMC2702499