The effect of nutrients on carbon and nitrogen fixation by the UCYN-A–haptophyte symbiosis

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Krupke, Andreas
Mohr, Wiebke
LaRoche, Julie
Fuchs, Bernhard M.
Amann, Rudolf I.
Kuypers, Marcel M. M.
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N2 fixation
Saharan dust
Symbiotic relationships between phytoplankton and N2-fixing microorganisms play a crucial role in marine ecosystems. The abundant and widespread unicellular cyanobacteria group A (UCYN-A) has recently been found to live symbiotically with a haptophyte. Here, we investigated the effect of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), iron (Fe) and Saharan dust additions on nitrogen (N2) fixation and primary production by the UCYN-A-haptophyte association in the subtropical eastern North Atlantic Ocean using nifH expression analysis and stable isotope incubations combined with single cell measurements. N2 fixation by UCYN-A was stimulated by the addition of Fe and Saharan dust although this was not reflected in the nifH expression. CO2 fixation by the haptophyte was stimulated by the addition of ammonium nitrate as well as Fe and Saharan dust. Intriguingly, the single-cell analysis using nanoSIMS indicates that the increased CO2 fixation by the haptophyte in treatments without added fixed N is likely an indirect result of the positive effect of Fe and/or P on UCYN-A N2 fixation and the transfer of N2-derived N to the haptophyte. Our results reveal a direct linkage between the marine carbon and nitrogen cycles that is fuelled by the atmospheric deposition of dust. The comparison of single-cell rates suggests a tight coupling of nitrogen and carbon transfer that stays balanced even under changing nutrient regimes. However, it appears that the transfer of carbon from the haptophyte to UCYN-A requires a transfer of nitrogen from UCYN-A. This tight coupling indicates an obligate symbiosis of this globally important diazotrophic association.
Author Posting. © The Author(s), 2014. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Nature Publishing Group for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in ISME Journal 9 (2015): 1635–1647, doi:10.1038/ismej.2014.253.
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