Characterization of particle-associated and free-living bacterial and archaeal communities along the water columns of the South China Sea

Li, Jiangtao; Gu, Lingyuan; Bai, Shijie; Wang, Jie; Su, Lei; Wei, Bingbing; Zhang, Li; Fang, Jiasong

There is a growing recognition of the role of particle-attached (PA) and free-living (FL) microorganisms in marine carbon cycle. However, current understanding of PA and FL microbial communities is largely focused on those in the upper photic zone, and relatively fewer studies have focused on microbial communities of the deep ocean. Moreover, archaeal populations receive even less attention. In this study, we determined bacterial and archaeal community structures of both the PA and FL assemblages at different depths, from the surface to the bathypelagic zone along two water column profiles in the South China Sea. Our results suggest that environmental parameters including depth, seawater age, salinity, particulate organic carbon (POC), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), dissolved oxygen (DO) and silicate play a role in structuring these microbial communities. Generally, the PA microbial communities had relatively low abundance and diversity compared with the FL microbial communities at most depths. Further microbial community analysis revealed that PA and FL fractions generally accommodate significantly divergent microbial compositions at each depth. The PA bacterial communities mainly comprise members of Alphaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria, together with some from Planctomycetes and Deltaproteobacteria, while the FL bacterial lineages are also mostly distributed within Alphaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria, along with other abundant members chiefly from Actinobacteria, Cyanobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Marinimicrobia and Deltaproteobacteria. Moreover, there was an obvious shifting in the dominant PA and FL bacterial compositions along the depth profiles from the surface to the bathypelagic deep. By contrast, both PA and FL archaeal communities dominantly consisted of euryarchaeotal Marine Group II (MGII) and thaumarchaeotal Nitrosopumilales, together with variable amounts of Marine Group III (MGIII), Methanosarcinales, Marine Benthic Group A (MBG-A) and Woesearchaeota. However, the pronounced distinction of archaeal community compositions between PA and FL fractions was observed at a finer taxonomic level. A high proportion of overlap of microbial compositions between PA and FL fractions implies that most microorganisms are potentially generalists with PA and FL dual lifestyles for versatile metabolic flexibility. In addition, microbial distribution along the depth profile indicates a potential vertical connectivity between the surface-specific microbial lineages and those in the deep ocean, likely through microbial attachment to sinking particles.



Li, Jiangtao / Gu, Lingyuan / Bai, Shijie / et al: Characterization of particle-associated and free-living bacterial and archaeal communities along the water columns of the South China Sea. 2021. Copernicus Publications.


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