AME 59:197-206 (2010)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/ame01407

Hydrogen production by Trichodesmium erythraeum Cyanothece sp. and Crocosphaera watsonii

Samuel T. Wilson1,2,*, Rachel A. Foster1,3, Jonathan P. Zehr1,3, David M. Karl1,2

1Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA
2Department of Oceanography, 1000 Pope Road, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA
3Ocean Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA

ABSTRACT: Diazotrophic cyanobacteria are important components of marine ecosystems, where they contribute to primary production and provide a source of fixed nitrogen (N). During biological fixation of atmospheric nitrogen (N2), hydrogen is produced as an obligate by-product. The present study investigated the potential contribution of 4 marine diazotrophs to the pool of dissolved H2 in the oceans. N2 fixation, as measured by acetylene reduction, and H2 production rates were monitored throughout the diel period in cultures of the filamentous Trichodesmium erythraeum strain IMS101, and the unicellular organisms Cyanothece sp. strain ATCC 51142 and Crocosphaera watsonii strains WH8501 and WH0002. H2 production coincided with diel variations in N2 fixation for each strain regardless of whether N2 fixation peaked during the day or night. Chlorophyll-normalized rates of H2 production ranged 100-fold from a maximum of 3 nmol µg chl a–1 h–1 in T. erythraeum IMS101 cultures to 0.03 nmol µg chl a–1 h–1 in Crocosphaera watsonii WH0002. Overall, the ratio of net H2 produced to N2 fixed varied from 0.05 to 0.003 in the unicellular cyanobacteria, compared to 0.3 in the filamentous T. erythraeum IMS101, indicating that unicellular cyanobacteria produce less, or alternatively, re-assimilate more of the H2 produced during N2 fixation. Crocosphaera watsonii has recently been identified as a significant source of fixed N in the marine environment, and an efficient recycling of H2 would provide a valuable source of energy to their respiratory electron transport chain. Furthermore, the magnitude of H2 produced by T. erythraeum IMS101 strongly implicates this organism in the production of H2 in the upper ocean.


KEY WORDS: N2 fixation · Hydrogen · Cyanobacteria


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Cite this article as: Wilson ST, Foster RA, Zehr JP, Karl DM (2010) Hydrogen production by Trichodesmium erythraeum Cyanothece sp. and Crocosphaera watsonii. Aquat Microb Ecol 59:197-206. https://doi.org/10.3354/ame01407

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