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The rate and fate of N-2 and C fixation by marine diatom-diazotroph symbioses

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Foster,  Rachel A.
Department of Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Tienken,  Daniela
Department of Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Littmann,  Sten
Department of Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Kuypers,  Marcel M. M.
Department of Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Foster, R. A., Tienken, D., Littmann, S., Whitehouse, M. J., Kuypers, M. M. M., & White, A. E. (2021). The rate and fate of N-2 and C fixation by marine diatom-diazotroph symbioses. ISME JOURNAL. doi:10.1038/s41396-021-01086-7.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-8787-6
Abstract
N-2 fixation constitutes an important new nitrogen source in the open sea. One group of filamentous N-2 fixing cyanobacteria (Richelia intracellularis, hereafter Richelia) form symbiosis with a few genera of diatoms. High rates of N-2 fixation and carbon (C) fixation have been measured in the presence of diatom-Richelia symbioses. However, it is unknown how partners coordinate C fixation and how the symbiont sustains high rates of N-2 fixation. Here, both the N-2 and C fixation in wild diatom-Richelia populations are reported. Inhibitor experiments designed to inhibit host photosynthesis, resulted in lower estimated growth and depressed C and N-2 fixation, suggesting that despite the symbionts ability to fix their own C, they must still rely on their respective hosts for C. Single cell analysis indicated that up to 22% of assimilated C in the symbiont is derived from the host, whereas 78-91% of the host N is supplied from their symbionts. A size-dependent relationship is identified where larger cells have higher N-2 and C fixation, and only N-2 fixation was light dependent. Using the single cell measures, the N-rich phycosphere surrounding these symbioses was estimated and contributes directly and rapidly to the surface ocean rather than the mesopelagic, even at high estimated sinking velocities (<10 m d(-1)). Several eco-physiological parameters necessary for incorporating symbiotic N-2 fixing populations into larger basin scale biogeochemical models (i.e., N and C cycles) are provided.