Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Microbiol., 14 August 2011 | doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2011.00160

Iron limitation of a springtime bacterial and phytoplankton community in the Ross Sea: implications for vitamin B12 nutrition

Erin M. Bertrand1, Mak A. Saito2*, Peter A. Lee3, Robert B. Dunbar4, Peter N. Sedwick5 and Giacomo R. DiTullio6
  • 1 MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Chemical Oceanography and Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA
  • 2 Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA
  • 3 Hollings Marine Laboratory, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA
  • 4 Department of Environmental Earth Systems Science, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA
  • 5 Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, USA
  • 6 Hollings Marine Laboratory, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA

The Ross Sea is home to some of the largest phytoplankton blooms in the Southern Ocean. Primary production in this system has previously been shown to be iron limited in the summer and periodically iron and vitamin B12 colimited. In this study, we examined trace metal limitation of biological activity in the Ross Sea in the austral spring and considered possible implications for vitamin B12 nutrition. Bottle incubation experiments demonstrated that iron limited phytoplankton growth in the austral spring while B12, cobalt, and zinc did not. This is the first demonstration of iron limitation in a Phaeocystis antarctica-dominated, early season Ross Sea phytoplankton community. The lack of B12 limitation in this location is consistent with previous Ross Sea studies in the austral summer, wherein vitamin additions did not stimulate P. antarctica growth and B12 was limiting only when bacterial abundance was low. Bottle incubation experiments and a bacterial regrowth experiment also revealed that iron addition directly enhanced bacterial growth. B12 uptake measurements in natural water samples and in an iron fertilized bottle incubation demonstrated that bacteria serve not only as a source for vitamin B12, but also as a significant sink, and that iron additions enhanced B12 uptake rates in phytoplankton but not bacteria. Additionally, vitamin uptake rates did not become saturated upon the addition of up to 95 pM B12. A rapid B12 uptake rate was observed after 13 min, which then decreased to a slower constant uptake rate over the next 52 h. Results from this study highlight the importance of iron availability in limiting early season Ross Sea phytoplankton growth and suggest that rates of vitamin B12 production and consumption may be impacted by iron availability.

Keywords: iron limitation, vitamin B12, Ross Sea, colimitation, bacteria, phytoplankton, iron fertilization

Citation: Bertrand EM, Saito MA, Lee PA, Dunbar RB, Sedwick PN and DiTullio GR (2011) Iron limitation of a springtime bacterial and phytoplankton community in the Ross Sea: implications for vitamin B12 nutrition. Front. Microbio. 2:160. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2011.00160

Received: 07 February 2011; Accepted: 13 July 2011;
Published online: 15 August 2011.

Edited by:

Karla B. Heidelberg, University of Southern California, USA

Reviewed by:

Chris Gobler, Stony Brook University, USA
Sergio Sanudo-Wilhelmy, University of Southern California, USA

Copyright: © 2011 Bertrand, Saito, Lee, Dunbar, Sedwick and DiTullio. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.

*Correspondence: Mak A. Saito, Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 360 Woods Hole Road, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA. e-mail: msaito@whoi.edu

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