Taxonomic distribution of metabolic functions in bacteria associated with Trichodesmium consortia

Coco Koedooder, Futing Zhang, Siyuan Wang, Subhajit Basu, Sheean T. Haley, Nikola Tolic, Carrie D. Nicora, Tijana Glavina del Rio, Sonya T. Dyhrman, Martha Gledhill, Rene M. Boiteau, Maxim Rubin-Blum, Yeala Shaked

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The photosynthetic and diazotrophic cyanobacterium Trichodesmium is a key contributor to marine biogeochemical cycles in the subtropical-oligotrophic oceans. Trichodesmium form colonies that harbor a distinct microbial community in comparison to the surrounding seawater. The presence of their associated bacteria can expand Trichodesmium’s functional potential and is predicted to influence the cycling of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and iron (C, N, P, and Fe). To link the bacteria associated with Trichodesmium to key functional traits and elucidate how community structure can influence nutrient cycling, we characterized Red Sea Trichodesmium colonies using metagenomics and metaproteomics. Colonies harbored bacteria that typically associate with algae and particles, such as the ubiquitous Alteromonas macleodii, but also lineages specific to Trichodesmium, such as members from the order Balneolales. The majority of associated bacteria were auxotrophic for different vitamins, indicating their dependency on vitamin production by Trichodesmium. The associated bacteria carry functional traits including siderophore biosynthesis, reduced phosphorus metabolism, and denitrification pathways. The analysis supports Trichodesmium as an active hotspot for C, N, P, Fe, and vitamin exchange. In turn, Trichodesmium may rely on associated bacteria to meet its high Fe demand as several lineages synthesize photolabile siderophores (e.g., vibrioferrin, rhizoferrin, petrobactin) which can enhance the bioavailability of particulate Fe to the entire consortium. Collectively, the results indicate that Trichodesmium colonies provide a structure where these interactions can take place. While further studies are required to clarify the exact nature of these interactions, Trichodesmium’s reliance on particle and algae-associated bacteria and the observed redundancy of key functional traits likely underpins the resilience of Trichodesmium within an ever-changing global environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes

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Copyright © 2023 Koedooder et al.

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