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1.  Closely related phytoplankton species produce similar suites of dissolved organic matter 
Production of dissolved organic matter (DOM) by marine phytoplankton supplies the majority of organic substrate consumed by heterotrophic bacterioplankton in the sea. This production and subsequent consumption converts a vast quantity of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus between organic and inorganic forms, directly impacting global cycles of these biologically important elements. Details regarding the chemical composition of DOM produced by marine phytoplankton are sparse, and while often assumed, it is not currently known if phylogenetically distinct groups of marine phytoplankton release characteristic suites of DOM. To investigate the relationship between specific phytoplankton groups and the DOM they release, hydrophobic phytoplankton-derived dissolved organic matter (DOMP) from eight axenic strains was analyzed using high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS). Identification of DOM features derived from Prochlorococcus, Synechococcus, Thalassiosira, and Phaeodactylum revealed DOMP to be complex and highly strain dependent. Connections between DOMP features and the phylogenetic relatedness of these strains were identified on multiple levels of phylogenetic distance, suggesting that marine phytoplankton produce DOM that in part reflects its phylogenetic origin. Chemical information regarding the size and polarity ranges of features from defined biological sources was also obtained. Our findings reveal DOMP composition to be partially conserved among related phytoplankton species, and implicate marine DOM as a potential factor influencing microbial diversity in the sea by acting as a link between autotrophic and heterotrophic microbial community structures.
PMCID: PMC3975126  PMID: 24748874
dissolved organic matter; untargeted metabolomics; marine phytoplankton; exometabolome; Prochlorococcus; Synechococcus; Thalassiosira; Phaeodactylum
2.  Portal protein diversity and phage ecology 
Environmental Microbiology  2008;10(10):2810-2823.
Oceanic phages are critical components of the global ecosystem, where they play a role in microbial mortality and evolution. Our understanding of phage diversity is greatly limited by the lack of useful genetic diversity measures. Previous studies, focusing on myophages that infect the marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus, have used the coliphage T4 portal-protein-encoding homologue, gene 20 (g20), as a diversity marker. These studies revealed 10 sequence clusters, 9 oceanic and 1 freshwater, where only 3 contained cultured representatives. We sequenced g20 from 38 marine myophages isolated using a diversity of Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus hosts to see if any would fall into the clusters that lacked cultured representatives. On the contrary, all fell into the three clusters that already contained sequences from cultured phages. Further, there was no obvious relationship between host of isolation, or host range, and g20 sequence similarity. We next expanded our analyses to all available g20 sequences (769 sequences), which include PCR amplicons from wild uncultured phages, non-PCR amplified sequences identified in the Global Ocean Survey (GOS) metagenomic database, as well as sequences from cultured phages, to evaluate the relationship between g20 sequence clusters and habitat features from which the phage sequences were isolated. Even in this meta-data set, very few sequences fell into the sequence clusters without cultured representatives, suggesting that the latter are very rare, or sequencing artefacts. In contrast, sequences most similar to the culture-containing clusters, the freshwater cluster and two novel clusters, were more highly represented, with one particular culture-containing cluster representing the dominant g20 genotype in the unamplified GOS sequence data. Finally, while some g20 sequences were non-randomly distributed with respect to habitat, there were always numerous exceptions to general patterns, indicating that phage portal proteins are not good predictors of a phage's host or the habitat in which a particular phage may thrive.
PMCID: PMC2657995  PMID: 18673386
3.  Distribution and Diversity of Natural Product Genes in Marine and Freshwater Cyanobacterial Cultures and Genomes 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2005;71(11):7401-7413.
Natural products are a functionally diverse class of biochemically synthesized compounds, which include antibiotics, toxins, and siderophores. In this paper, we describe both the detection of natural product activities and the sequence identification of gene fragments from two molecular systems that have previously been implicated in natural product production, i.e., nonribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPSs) and modular polyketide synthases (PKSs), in diverse marine and freshwater cyanobacterial cultures. Using degenerate PCR and the sequencing of cloned products, we show that NRPSs and PKSs are common among the cyanobacteria tested. Our molecular data, when combined with genomic searches of finished and progressing cyanobacterial genomes, demonstrate that not all cyanobacteria contain NRPS and PKS genes and that the filamentous and heterocystous cyanobacteria are the richest sources of these genes and the most likely sources of novel natural products within the phylum. In addition to validating the use of degenerate primers for the identification of PKS and NRPS genes in cyanobacteria, this study also defines numerous gene fragments that will be useful as probes for future studies of the synthesis of natural products in cyanobacteria. Phylogenetic analyses of the cyanobacterial NRPS and PKS fragments sequenced in this study, as well as those from the cyanobacterial genome projects, demonstrate that there is remarkable diversity and likely novelty of these genes within the cyanobacteria. These results underscore the potential variety of novel products being produced by these ubiquitous organisms.
PMCID: PMC1287672  PMID: 16269782
4.  Resolution of Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus Ecotypes by Using 16S-23S Ribosomal DNA Internal Transcribed Spacer Sequences 
Cultured isolates of the marine cyanobacteria Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus vary widely in their pigment compositions and growth responses to light and nutrients, yet show greater than 96% identity in their 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) sequences. In order to better define the genetic variation that accompanies their physiological diversity, sequences for the 16S-23S rDNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region were determined in 32 Prochlorococcus isolates and 25 Synechococcus isolates from around the globe. Each strain examined yielded one ITS sequence that contained two tRNA genes. Dramatic variations in the length and G+C content of the spacer were observed among the strains, particularly among Prochlorococcus strains. Secondary-structure models of the ITS were predicted in order to facilitate alignment of the sequences for phylogenetic analyses. The previously observed division of Prochlorococcus into two ecotypes (called high and low-B/A after their differences in chlorophyll content) were supported, as was the subdivision of the high-B/A ecotype into four genetically distinct clades. ITS-based phylogenies partitioned marine cluster A Synechococcus into six clades, three of which can be associated with a particular phenotype (motility, chromatic adaptation, and lack of phycourobilin). The pattern of sequence divergence within and between clades is suggestive of a mode of evolution driven by adaptive sweeps and implies that each clade represents an ecologically distinct population. Furthermore, many of the clades consist of strains isolated from disparate regions of the world's oceans, implying that they are geographically widely distributed. These results provide further evidence that natural populations of Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus consist of multiple coexisting ecotypes, genetically closely related but physiologically distinct, which may vary in relative abundance with changing environmental conditions.
PMCID: PMC123739  PMID: 11872466
5.  Resistance to Co-Occurring Phages Enables Marine Synechococcus Communities To Coexist with Cyanophages Abundant in Seawater † 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  1993;59(10):3393-3399.
Recent reports documenting very high viral abundances in seawater have led to increased interest in the role of viruses in aquatic environments and a resurgence of the hypothesis that viruses are significant agents of bacterial mortality. Synechococcus spp., small unicellular cyanobacteria that are important primary producers at the base of the marine food web, were used to assess this hypothesis. We isolated a diverse group of Synechococcus phages that at times reach titers of between 103 and 104 cyanophages per ml in both inshore and offshore waters. However, despite their diversity and abundance, we present evidence in support of the hypothesis that lytic phages have a negligible effect in regulating the densities of marine Synechococcus populations. Our results indicate that these bacterial communities are dominated by cells resistant to their co-occurring phages and that these viruses are maintained by scavenging on the relatively rare sensitive cells in these communities.
PMCID: PMC182464  PMID: 16349072

Results 1-5 (5)