Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Student Research Publications

Picocyanobacteria and deep-ocean fluorescent dissolved organic matter share similar optical properties




Zhao, Z., M. Gonsior, J. Luek, S. Timko, H. Ianiri*, N. Hertkorn, P. Schmitt-Kopplin, X. Fang, Q. Zeng, N. Jiao and F. Chen


Nature Communications 8, 15284 doi:10.1038/ncomms15284


Marine chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM) and its related fluorescent components (FDOM), which are widely distributed but highly photobleached in the surface ocean, are critical in regulating light attenuation in the ocean. However, the origins of marine FDOM are still under investigation. Here we show that cultured picocyanobacteria, Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus, release FDOM that closely match the typical fluorescent signals found in oceanic environments. Picocyanobacterial FDOM also shows comparable apparent fluorescent quantum yields and undergoes similar photo-degradation behaviour when compared with deep-ocean FDOM, further strengthening the similarity between them. Ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry (MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy reveal abundant nitrogen-containing compounds in Synechococcus DOM, which may originate from degradation products of the fluorescent phycobilin pigments. Given the importance of picocyanobacteria in the global carbon cycle, our results indicate that picocyanobacteria are likely to be important sources of marine autochthonous FDOM, which may accumulate in the deep ocean.



Michael Gonsior, Ph.D.


Hope Ianiri, Northeastern University

The REU students are indicated with an asterisk (*).