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1.  Prochlorococcus Ecotype Abundances in the North Atlantic Ocean As Revealed by an Improved Quantitative PCR Method†  
The cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus numerically dominates the photosynthetic community in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world's oceans. Six evolutionary lineages of Prochlorococcus have been described, and their distinctive physiologies and genomes indicate that these lineages are “ecotypes” and should have different oceanic distributions. Two methods recently developed to quantify these ecotypes in the field, probe hybridization and quantitative PCR (QPCR), have shown that this is indeed the case. To facilitate a global investigation of these ecotypes, we modified our QPCR protocol to significantly increase its speed, sensitivity, and accessibility and validated the method in the western and eastern North Atlantic Ocean. We showed that all six ecotypes had distinct distributions that varied with depth and location, and, with the exception of the deeper waters at the western North Atlantic site, the total Prochlorococcus counts determined by QPCR matched the total counts measured by flow cytometry. Clone library analyses of the deeper western North Atlantic waters revealed ecotypes that are not represented in the culture collections with which the QPCR primers were designed, explaining this discrepancy. Finally, similar patterns of relative ecotype abundance were obtained in QPCR and probe hybridization analyses of the same field samples, which could allow comparisons between studies.
PMCID: PMC1352191  PMID: 16391112
2.  PCR Analysis of the Distribution of Unicellular Cyanobacterial Diazotrophs in the Arabian Sea 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2004;70(12):7355-7364.
An oligonucleotide primer, NITRO821R, targeting the 16S rRNA gene of unicellular cyanobacterial N2 fixers was developed based on newly derived sequences from Crocosphaera sp. strain WH 8501 and Cyanothece sp. strains WH 8902 and WH 8904 as well as several previously described sequences of Cyanothece sp. and sequences of intracellular cyanobacterial symbionts of the marine diatom Climacodium frauenfeldianum. This oligonucleotide is specific for the targeted organisms, which represent a well-defined phylogenetic lineage, and can detect as few as 50 cells in a standard PCR when it is used as a reverse primer together with the cyanobacterium- and plastid-specific forward primer CYA359F (U. Nübel, F. Garcia-Pichel, and G. Muyzer, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 63:3327-3332, 1997). Use of this primer pair in the PCR allowed analysis of the distribution of marine unicellular cyanobacterial diazotrophs along a transect following the 67°E meridian from Victoria, Seychelles, to Muscat, Oman (0.5°S to 26°N) in the Arabian Sea. These organisms were found to be preferentially located in warm (>29°C) oligotrophic subsurface waters between 0 and 7°N, but they were also found at a station north of Oman at 26°N, 56°35′E, where similar water column conditions prevailed. Slightly cooler oligotrophic waters (<29°C) did not contain these organisms or the numbers were considerably reduced, suggesting that temperature is a key factor in dictating the abundance of this unicellular cyanobacterial diazotroph lineage in marine environments.
PMCID: PMC535192  PMID: 15574936
3.  Clade-Specific 16S Ribosomal DNA Oligonucleotides Reveal the Predominance of a Single Marine Synechococcus Clade throughout a Stratified Water Column in the Red Sea 
Phylogenetic relationships among members of the marine Synechococcus genus were determined following sequencing of the 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) from 31 novel cultured isolates from the Red Sea and several other oceanic environments. This revealed a large genetic diversity within the marine Synechococcus cluster consistent with earlier work but also identified three novel clades not previously recognized. Phylogenetic analyses showed one clade, containing halotolerant isolates lacking phycoerythrin (PE) and including strains capable, or not, of utilizing nitrate as the sole N source, which clustered within the MC-A (Synechococcus subcluster 5.1) lineage. Two copies of the 16S rRNA gene are present in marine Synechococcus genomes, and cloning and sequencing of these copies from Synechococcus sp. strain WH 7803 and genomic information from Synechococcus sp. strain WH 8102 reveal these to be identical. Based on the 16S rDNA sequence information, clade-specific oligonucleotides for the marine Synechococcus genus were designed and their specificity was optimized. Using dot blot hybridization technology, these probes were used to determine the in situ community structure of marine Synechococcus populations in the Red Sea at the time of a Synechococcus maximum during April 1999. A predominance of genotypes representative of a single clade was found, and these genotypes were common among strains isolated into culture. Conversely, strains lacking PE, which were also relatively easily isolated into culture, represented only a minor component of the Synechococcus population. Genotypes corresponding to well-studied laboratory strains also appeared to be poorly represented in this stratified water column in the Red Sea.
PMCID: PMC154553  PMID: 12732508
4.  Occurrence of a Sequence in Marine Cyanophages Similar to That of T4 g20 and Its Application to PCR-Based Detection and Quantification Techniques† 
Viruses are ubiquitous components of marine ecosystems and are known to infect unicellular phycoerythrin-containing cyanobacteria belonging to the genus Synechococcus. A conserved region from the cyanophage genome was identified in three genetically distinct cyanomyoviruses, and a sequence analysis revealed that this region exhibited significant similarity to a gene encoding a capsid assembly protein (gp20) from the enteric coliphage T4. The results of a comparison of gene 20 sequences from three cyanomyoviruses and T4 allowed us to design two degenerate PCR primers, CPS1 and CPS2, which specifically amplified a 165-bp region from the majority of cyanomyoviruses tested. A competitive PCR (cPCR) analysis revealed that cyanomyovirus strains could be accurately enumerated, and it was demonstrated that quantification was log-linear over ca. 3 orders of magnitude. Different calibration curves were obtained for each of the three cyanomyovirus strains tested; consequently, cPCR performed with primers CPS1 and CPS2 could lead to substantial inaccuracies in estimates of phage abundance in natural assemblages. Further sequence analysis of cyanomyovirus gene 20 homologs would be necessary in order to design primers which do not exhibit phage-to-phage variability in priming efficiency. It was demonstrated that PCR products of the correct size could be amplified from seawater samples following 100× concentration and even directly without any prior concentration. Hence, the use of degenerate primers in PCR analyses of cyanophage populations should provide valuable data on the diversity of cyanophages in natural assemblages. Further optimization of procedures may ultimately lead to a sensitive assay which can be used to analyze natural cyanophage populations both quantitatively (by cPCR) and qualitatively following phylogenetic analysis of amplified products.
PMCID: PMC106277  PMID: 9603813

Results 1-4 (4)