Microbiomes of bloom-forming Phaeocystis algae are stable and consistently recruited, with both symbiotic and opportunistic modes


Phaeocystis is a cosmopolitan, bloom-forming phytoplankton genus that contributes significantly to global carbon and sulfur cycles. During blooms, Phaeocystis species produce large carbon-rich colonies, creating a unique interface for bacterial interactions. While bacteria are known to interact with phytoplankton e.g., they promote growth by producing phytohormones and vitamins—such interactions have not been shown for Phaeocystis. Therefore, we investigated the composition and function of P. globosa microbiomes. Specifically, we tested whether microbiome compositions are consistent across individual colonies from four P. globosa strains, whether similar microbiomes are re-recruited after antibiotic treatment, and how microbiomes affect P. globosa growth under limiting conditions. Results illuminated a core colonial P. globosa microbiome—including bacteria from the orders Alteromonadales, Burkholderiales, and Rhizobiales that was re-recruited after microbiome disruption. Consistent microbiome composition and recruitment is indicative that P. globosa microbiomes are stable-state systems undergoing deterministic community assembly and suggests there are specific, beneficial interactions between Phaeocystis and bacteria. Growth experiments with axenic and nonaxenic cultures demonstrated that microbiomes allowed continued growth when B-vitamins were withheld, but that microbiomes accelerated culture collapse when nitrogen was withheld. In sum, this study reveals symbiotic and opportunistic interactions between Phaeocystis colonies and microbiome bacteria that could influence large-scale phytoplankton bloom dynamics and biogeochemical cycles.

The ISME Journal