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Activity and Phylogenetic Diversity of Bacterial Cells with High and Low Nucleic Acid Content and Electron Transport System Activity in an Upwelling Ecosystem

Longnecker, K., Sherr, B. F., Sherr, E. B.
Applied and environmental microbiology 2005 v.71 no.12 pp. 7737-7749
active transport, bacteria, bacterioplankton, chlorides, coastal water, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, ecosystems, electron transfer, genes, leucine, metabolism, phylogeny, ribosomal RNA, sorting, tetrazolium
We evaluated whether bacteria with higher cell-specific nucleic acid content (HNA) or an active electron transport system, i.e., positive for reduction of 5-cyano-2,3-ditolyl tetrazolium chloride (CTC), were responsible for the bulk of bacterioplankton metabolic activity. We also examined whether the phylogenetic diversity of HNA and CTC-positive cells differed from the diversity of Bacteria with low nucleic acid content (LNA). Bacterial assemblages were sampled both in eutrophic shelf waters and in mesotrophic offshore waters in the Oregon coastal upwelling region. Cytometrically sorted HNA, LNA, and CTC-positive cells were assayed for their cell-specific [³H]leucine incorporation rates. Phylogenetic diversity in sorted non-radioactively labeled samples was assayed using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of PCR-amplified 16S rRNA genes. Cell-specific rates of leucine incorporation of HNA and CTC-positive cells were on average only slightly greater than the cell-specific rates of LNA cells. HNA cells accounted for most bacterioplankton substrate incorporation due to high abundances, while the low abundances of CTC-positive cells resulted in only a small contribution by these cells to total bacterial activity. The proportion of the total bacterial leucine incorporation attributable to LNA cells was higher in offshore regions than in shelf waters. Sequence data obtained from DGGE bands showed broadly similar phylogenetic diversity across HNA, LNA, and CTC-positive cells, with between-sample and between-region variability in the distribution of phylotypes. Our results suggest that LNA bacteria are not substantially different from HNA bacteria in either cell-specific rates of substrate incorporation or phylogenetic composition and that they can be significant contributors to bacterial metabolism in the sea.