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Phosphate availability affects fixed nitrogen transfer from diazotrophs to their epibionts

Journal article
Authors Schoffelen Niels J.
Wiebke Mohr
Timothy G. Ferdelman
Julia Duerschlag
Sten Littmann
Helle Ploug
Marcel Kuypers
Published in The ISME Journal
Volume 13
Pages 2701-2713
ISSN 1751-7362
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of marine sciences
Pages 2701-2713
Language en
Subject categories Other Natural Sciences


Dinitrogen (N2) fixation is a major source of external nitrogen (N) to aquatic ecosystems and therefore exerts control over productivity. Studies have shown that N2 -fixers release freshly fixed N into the environment, but the causes for this N release are largely unclear. Here, we show that the availability of phosphate can directly affect the transfer of freshly fixed N to epibionts in filamentous, diazotrophic cyanobacteria. Stable-isotope incubations coupled to single-cell analyses showed that <1% and ~15% of freshly fixed N was transferred to epibionts of Aphanizomenon and Nodularia, respectively, at phosphate scarcity during a summer bloom in the Baltic Sea. When phosphate was added, the transfer of freshly fixed N to epibionts dropped to about half for Nodularia, whereas the release from Aphanizomenon increased slightly. At the same time, the growth rate of Nodularia roughly doubled, indicating that less freshly fixed N was released and was used for biomass production instead. Phosphate scarcity and the resulting release of freshly fixed N could explain the heavy colonization of Nodularia filaments by microorganisms during summer blooms. As such, the availability of phosphate may directly affect the partitioning of fixed N2 in colonies of diazotrophic cyanobacteria and may impact the interactions with their microbiome.

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