AME - Vol. 58, No. 1 - Feature article

Microscale exploration of the sea. Bottom right: Atomic force microscope image showing intimate associations among heterotrophic bacteria and Synechococcus cells, a major primary producers in the ocean. Center: Epifluorescence microscopy image of heterotrophic bacteria and Synechoccus cells. Top left: Image selected from SeaWiFS Biosphere Globes (http://oceancolor.gsfc.nasa.gov/SeaWiFS/) showing satellite based view of an expanse of the ocean.
Authors of the image composition: Francesca Malfatti, Ty J. Samo, Farooq Azam

Malfatti F, Azam F

 

Atomic force microscopy reveals microscale networks and possible symbioses among pelagic marine bacteria

 

Malfatti and Azam discovered unexpected and intimate relationships and possible symbioses among marine microbes that have major consequences in ocean carbon cycling and climate. Using an atomic force microscope they found that a substantial proportion of bacteria previously considered free-living express elaborate surface architectures at the nanometer to micrometer scale that connect them with other bacteria to form highly abundant microscale networks. Remarkably, a substantial fraction of bacteria (including an important primary producer, Synechococcus) were intimately conjoint, possibly symbionts. These findings may change how we think about the ecology of pelagic bacteria and their biogeochemical role. Climate change and ocean acidification could alter the microspatial architecture and bacterial interactions, with feedback to the ocean carbon cycle. Studying the microscale architecture in concert with biochemical and genomic data could provide fundamental insights into mechanism of carbon flow and may contribute towards the development of microbial biogeochemistry as a microspatial structural problem.

 

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