AME prepress abstract  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/ame01867

N-fixation and related O2 constraints on model marine diazotroph Pseudomonas stutzeri BAL361

Ryan W. Paerl*, Tobias Hansen, Nathalie N. S. E. Henriksen, Asmus K. Olesen, Lasse Riemann

*Email: rpaerl@ncsu.edu

ABSTRACT: Marine non-cyanobacterial diazotrophs are widespread in the ocean and can be the dominant nitrogen (N) fixers in certain regions. Lagging behind distribution and diversity data for these diazotrophs is a fundamental understanding of their physiologies – particularly in regards to dealing with oxygen, a potential inhibitor of N-fixation present in most of the ocean. To address this constraint, we conducted multiple experiments with Pseudomonas stutzeri BAL361, a model marine planktonic non-cyanobacterial diazotroph previously isolated from the Baltic Sea. Here we confirm BAL361 uses nitrogenase for converting N2 gas into biomass via N-fixation, reaching N-fixation rates upwards of 0.046 fmol N cell-1 h-1. Planktonic BAL361 cells exhibited nitrogenase activity at ~54 µM O2 or less – an O2 threshold notably lower than that recently reported (~160 µM O2) in experiments with BAL361 where large aggregates were observed. Provision of hydrophobic or hydrophilic particles or surfaces, used previously to stimulate N-fixation by aerobic natural communities, did not enhance N-fixation by aerobic BAL361 cultures. We empirically show that bulk N-fixation under aerobic conditions by BAL361 alone is possible by aggregation; but, it remains elusive how low numbers of solitary planktonic BAL361 cells in nature accomplish this same feat. Our findings draw new attention to the possibility that nutrient rich conditions (including N-rich conditions) may be key to ultimately enable diazotrophs like BAL361 to overcome the ‘O2 problem’ and perform N-fixation via microoxic zones within aerobic marine bulk waters.