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Bacterial Alteration and Removal of Dissolved Organic Matter in the Surface Ocean /


The ocean contains one of the largest reservoirs of reduced carbon on Earth in the form of dissolved organic matter (DOM). Heterotrophic bacteria serve as the primary force regulating the degradation of this material, recycling the majority of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) produced in the surface ocean by phytoplankton back to carbon dioxide. While it is known that microbial community structure plays a role in determining the rate and magnitude of DOM turnover, the quantitative contribution of individuals to this process remains unknown. The objective of this dissertation was to investigate the constraints on DOM turnover by bacterial communities by focusing on how a single bacterial strain makes a living in the sea. I found that a single bacterial strain, Alteromonas sp. AltSIO, has the capacity to consume an equivalent magnitude of DOC as diverse bacterial communities, suggesting that bacterial diversity may not be required for the complete removal of labile DOC in the surface ocean. In long-term microcosms, however, bacterial diversity was required for continued degradation of semi- labile DOC. To test the generality of this capacity among individual bacteria, a culture-based study was conducted where >100 phylogenetically diverse bacterial strains were isolated to screen for growth in unamended seawater. No other bacterial strain tested exhibited the capacity to consume a measureable quantity of DOC when grown in isolation, suggesting that this phenomenon may not be common among readily culturable marine bacteria. Physiological investigations of this isolate reveal a broad capacity for processing carbohydrates, yet an apparent preference for disaccharides and inability to metabolize glucose. Genomic analysis confirmed that this strain lacks a glucose-specific permease required for the exogenous uptake of glucose, but is endowed with additional carbohydrate-specific transporters not found in genomes of closely related bacterial strains. Genomic insights also show the potential to reduce nitrate, a high capacity to scavenge iron, and a complete chemotaxis apparatus potentially used for disaccharide acquisition. DOM characterization by ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry revealed that AltSIO and diverse seawater communities significantly alter the composition of ambient DOM

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