Transcriptional patterns identify resource controls on the diazotroph Trichodesmium in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans


The N2-fixing cyanobacterium Trichodesmium is intensely studied because of the control this organism exerts over the cycling of carbon and nitrogen in the low nutrient ocean gyres. Although iron (Fe) and phosphorus (P) bioavailability are thought to be major drivers of Trichodesmium distributions and activities, identifying resource controls on Trichodesmium is challenging, as Fe and P are often organically complexed and their bioavailability to a single species in a mixed community is difficult to constrain. Further, Fe and P geochemistries are linked through the activities of metalloenzymes, such as the alkaline phosphatases (APs) PhoX and PhoA, which are used by microbes to access dissolved organic P (DOP). Here we identified significant correlations between Trichodesmium-specific transcriptional patterns in the North Atlantic (NASG) and North Pacific Subtropical Gyres (NPSG) and patterns in Fe and P biogeochemistry, with the relative enrichment of Fe stress markers in the NPSG, and P stress markers in the NASG. We also observed the differential enrichment of Fe-requiring PhoX transcripts in the NASG and Fe-insensitive PhoA transcripts in the NPSG, suggesting that metalloenzyme switching may be used to mitigate Fe limitation of DOP metabolism in Trichodesmium. This trait may underpin Trichodesmium success across disparate ecosystems.

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