Composition and enzymatic function of particle-associated and free-living bacteria: A coastal/offshore comparison

Lindsay D'Ambrosio, Kai Ziervogel, Barbara Macgregor, Andreas Teske, Carol Arnosti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


We compared the function and composition of free-living and particle-associated microbial communities at an inshore site in coastal North Carolina and across a depth profile on the Blake Ridge (offshore). Hydrolysis rates of six different polysaccharide substrates were compared for particle-associated (>3 μm) and free-living (<3 to 0.2 μm) microbial communities. The 16S rRNA- and rDNA-based clone libraries were produced from the same filters used to measure hydrolysis rates. Particle-associated and free-living communities resembled one another; they also showed similar enzymatic hydrolysis rates and substrate preferences. All six polysaccharides were hydrolyzed inshore. Offshore, only a subset was hydrolyzed in surface water and at depths of 146 and 505 m; just three polysaccharides were hydrolyzed at 505 m. The spectrum of bacterial taxa changed more subtly between inshore and offshore surface waters, but changed greatly with depth offshore. None of the OTUs occurred at all sites: 27 out of the 28 major OTUs defined in this study were found either exclusively in a surface or in a mid-depth/bottom water sample. This distinction was evident with both 16S rRNA and rDNA analyses. At the offshore site, despite the low community overlap, bacterial communities maintained a degree of functional redundancy on the whole bacterial community level with respect to hydrolysis of high-molecular-weight substrates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2167-2179
Number of pages13
JournalISME Journal
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 25 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Patrick Gibson and the captain and crew of the R/V Cape Hatteras kindly collected the offshore waters for us; Dr Steven Ross, chief scientist, gave permission to collect samples. We thank Sherif Ghobrial for assistance with sample processing in the lab. This project was supported by NSF (OCE-0848703 and -1332881 to CA). We are very grateful to Antje Boetius and two anonymous reviewers for their suggestions that considerably improved the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 International Society for Microbial Ecology All rights reserved.


  • carbon cycling
  • community composition
  • extracellular enzyme
  • particle associated


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