Uchimiya et al., 2020, BioRXiv

Diel Investments in Phytoplankton Metabolic Production Influenced by Associated Heterotrophic Bacteria

M. Uchimiya, W. Schroer, M. Olofsson, A. S. Edison, M. A. Moran

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Organic carbon transfer between photoautotrophic and heterotrophic microbes in the surface ocean mediated through metabolites dissolved in seawater is a central but poorly understood process in the global carbon cycle. In a synthetic microbial community in which diatom extracellular release of organic molecules sustained growth of a co-cultured bacterium, metabolite transfer was assessed over two diel cycles based on per cell quantification of phytoplankton endometabolites and bacterial transcripts. Of 31 phytoplankton endometabolites identified and classified into temporal abundance patterns, eight could be matched to patterns of bacterial transcripts mediating their uptake and catabolism. A model simulating the coupled endometabolite-transcription relationships hypothesized that one category of outcomes required an increase in phytoplankton metabolite synthesis in response to the presence of the bacterium. An experimental test of this hypothesis confirmed higher endometabolome accumulation in the presence of bacteria for all five compounds assigned to this category – leucine, glycerol-3-phosphate, glucose, and the organic sulfur compounds dihydroxypropanesulfonate and dimethylsulfoniopropionate. Partitioning of photosynthate into rapidly-cycling dissolved organic molecules at the expense of phytoplankton biomass production has implications for carbon sequestration in the deep ocean. That heterotrophic bacteria can impact this partitioning suggests a previously unrecognized influence on the ocean’s carbon reservoirs.