PLoS ONE 17 (11) e0243406 [2022-11-17; online 2022-11-17]
Phytoplankton release massive amounts of dissolved organic matter (DOM) into the water column during recurring blooms in coastal waters and inland seas. The released DOM encompasses a complex mixture of both known and unknown compounds, and is a rich nutrient source for heterotrophic bacteria. The metabolic activity of bacteria during and after phytoplankton blooms can hence be expected to reflect the characteristics of the released DOM. We therefore investigated if bacterioplankton could be used as "living sensors" of phytoplankton DOM quantity and/or quality, by applying gene expression analyses to identify bacterial metabolisms induced by DOM. We used transcriptional analysis of two Baltic Sea bacterial isolates (Polaribacter sp. BAL334 [Flavobacteriia] and Brevundimonas sp. BAL450 [Alphaproteobacteria]) growing with DOM from axenic cultures of the dinoflagellate Prorocentrum minimum. We observed pronounced differences between the two bacteria both in growth and the expressed metabolic pathways in cultures exposed to dinoflagellate DOM compared with controls. Differences in metabolic responses between the two isolates were caused both by differences in gene repertoire between them (e.g. in the SEED categories for membrane transport, motility and photoheterotrophy) and the regulation of expression (e.g. fatty acid metabolism), emphasizing the importance of separating the responses of different taxa in analyses of community sequence data. Similarities between the bacteria included substantially increased expression of genes for Ton and Tol transport systems in both isolates, which are commonly associated with uptake of complex organic molecules. Polaribacter sp. BAL334 showed stronger metabolic responses to DOM harvested from exponential than stationary phase dinoflagellates (128 compared to 26 differentially expressed genes), whereas Brevundimonas sp. BAL450 responded more to the DOM from stationary than exponential phase dinoflagellates (33 compared to 6 differentially expressed genes). These findings suggest that shifts in bacterial metabolisms during different phases of phytoplankton blooms can be detected in individual bacterial species and can provide insights into their involvement in DOM transformations.