Peer-reviewed articles

Light color acclimation is a key process in the global ocean distribution of Synechococcus cyanobacteria

Authors: Grébert, T., Doré, H., Partensky, F., Farrant, GK, Boss, ES, Picheral, M., Guidi, L., Pesant, S., Scanlan, DJ, Wincker, P., Acinas, SG , Kehoe, DM, Garczarek, L.

Version: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Publication year: 2018


Marine Synechococcus cyanobacteria are major contributors to global oceanic primary production and exhibit a unique diversity of photosynthetic pigments, allowing them to exploit a wide range of light niches. However, the relationship between pigment content and niche partitioning has remained largely undetermined due to the lack of a single-genetic marker resolving all pigment types (PTs). Here, we developed and employed a robust method based on three distinct marker genes (cpcBAmpeBA, and mpeW) to estimate the relative abundance of all known Synechococcus PTs from metagenomes. Analysis of the Tara Oceans dataset allowed us to reveal the global distribution of Synechococcus PTs and to define their environmental niches. Green-light specialists (PT 3a) dominated in warm, green equatorial waters, whereas blue-light specialists (PT 3c) were particularly abundant in oligotrophic areas. Type IV chromatic acclimaters (CA4-A / B), which are able to dynamically modify their light absorption properties to maximally absorb green or blue light, were unexpectedly the most abundant PT in our dataset and predominated at depth and high latitudes. We also identified populations in which CA4 might be nonfunctional due to the lack of specific CA4 genes, notably in warm high-nutrient low-chlorophyll areas. Major ecotypes within clades I – IV and CRD1 were preferentially associated with a particular PT, while others exhibited a wide range of PTs. Altogether, this study provides important insights into the ecology of Synechococcus and highlights the complex interactions between vertical phylogeny, pigmentation, and environmental parameters that shape Synechococcus community structure and evolution.

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