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Kharbush, JJ, Thompson LR, Haroon MF, Knight R, Aluwihare LI.  2018.  Hopanoid-producing bacteria in the Red Sea include the major marine nitrite oxidizers. Fems Microbiology Ecology. 94   10.1093/femsec/fiy063   AbstractWebsite

Hopanoids, including the extended side chain-containing bacteriohopanepolyols, are bacterial lipids found abundantly in the geological record and across Earth's surface environments. However, the physiological roles of this biomarker remain uncertain, limiting interpretation of their presence in current and past environments. Recent work investigating the diversity and distribution of hopanoid producers in the marine environment implicated low-oxygen regions as important loci of hopanoid production, and data from marine oxygen minimum zones suggested that the dominant hopanoid producers in these environments are nitrite-utilizing organisms, revealing a potential connection between hopanoid production and the marine nitrogen cycle. Here, we use metagenomic data from the Red Sea to investigate the ecology of hopanoid producers in an environmental setting that is biogeochemically distinct from those investigated previously. The distributions of hopanoid production and nitrite oxidation genes in the Red Sea are closely correlated, and the majority of hopanoid producers are taxonomically affiliated with the major marine nitrite oxidizers, Nitrospinae and Nitrospirae. These results suggest that the relationship between hopanoid production and nitrite oxidation is conserved across varying biogeochemical conditions in dark ocean microbial ecosystems.

Stukel, MR, Aluwihare LI, Barbeau KA, Chekalyuk AM, Goericke R, Miller AJ, Ohman MD, Ruacho A, Song H, Stephens BM, Landry MR.  2017.  Mesoscale ocean fronts enhance carbon export due to gravitational sinking and subduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 114:1252-1257.   10.1073/pnas.1609435114   AbstractWebsite

Enhanced vertical carbon transport (gravitational sinking and subduction) at mesoscale ocean fronts may explain the demonstrated imbalance of new production and sinking particle export in coastal upwelling ecosystems. Based on flux assessments from U-238:Th-234 disequilibrium and sediment traps, we found 2 to 3 times higher rates of gravitational particle export near a deep-water front (305 mg C.m(-2).d(-1)) compared with adjacent water or to mean (nonfrontal) regional conditions. Elevated particle flux at the front wasmechanistically linked to Fe-stressed diatoms and high-mesozooplankton fecal pellet production. Using a data assimilative regional ocean model fit to measured conditions, we estimate that an additional similar to 225 mg C.m(-2).d(-1) was exported as subduction of particle-rich water at the front, highlighting a transport mechanism that is not captured by sediment traps and is poorly quantified by most models and in situ measurements. Mesoscale fronts may be responsible for over a quarter of total organic carbon sequestration in the California Current and other coastal upwelling ecosystems.

Kharbush, JJ, Kejriwal K, Aluwihare LI.  2016.  Distribution and abundance of hopanoid producers in low-oxygen environments of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Microbial Ecology. 71:401-408.   10.1007/s00248-015-0671-y   AbstractWebsite

Hopanoids are bacterial membrane lipid biomarker molecules that feature prominently in the molecular fossil record. In the modern marine water column, recent reports implicate bacteria inhabiting low-oxygen environments as important sources of hopanoids to marine sediments. However, the preliminary biogeography reported by recent studies and the environmental conditions governing such distributions can only be confirmed when the numerical abundance of these organisms is known with more certainty. In this study, we employ two different approaches to examine the quantitative significance of phylogenetically distinct hopanoid producers in low-oxygen environments. First, we develop a novel quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay for the squalene hopene cyclase (sqhC) gene, targeting a subset of hopanoid producers previously identified to be important in the eastern North Pacific Ocean. The results represent the first quantitative gene abundance data of any kind for hopanoid producers in the marine water column and show that these putative alphaproteobacterial hopanoid producers are rare, comprising at most 0.2 % of the total bacterial community in our samples. Second, a complementary analysis of existing low-oxygen metagenomic datasets further examined the generality of the qPCR observation. We find that the dominant sqhC sequences in these metagenomic datasets are associated with phyla such as Nitrospinae rather than Proteobacteria, consistent with the qPCR finding that alphaproteobacterial hopanoid producers are not very abundant in low-oxygen environments. In fact, positive correlations between sqhC gene abundance and environmental parameters in these samples identify nitrite availability as a potentially important factor in the ecology of hopanoid producers that dominate low-oxygen environments.

Goldberg, SJ, Ball GI, Allen BC, Schladow SG, Simpson AJ, Masoom H, Soong R, Graven HD, Aluwihare LI.  2015.  Refractory dissolved organic nitrogen accumulation in high-elevation lakes. Nature Communications. 6   10.1038/ncomms7347   AbstractWebsite

The role of dissolved organic matter (DOM) as either a sink for inorganic nutrients or an additional nutrient source is an often-neglected component of nutrient budgets in aquatic environments. Here, we examined the role of DOM in reactive nitrogen (N) storage in Sierra Nevada (California, USA) lakes where atmospheric deposition of N has shifted the lakes toward seasonal phosphorus (P)-limitation. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and isotope analyses performed on DOM isolated from Lake Tahoe reveal the accumulation of refractory proteinaceous material with a 100-200-year residence time. In contrast, smaller lakes in the same watershed contain DOM with typical terrestrial characteristics, indicating that proteins in Lake Tahoe are autochthonously produced. These data support the role of DOM as a possible sink for reactive N in these lake ecosystems and identify a potential role for DOM in affecting the inorganic nutrient stoichiometry of these environments.