High molecular weight dissolved organic matter enrichment selects for methylotrophs in dilution to extinction cultures. Academic Article uri icon


  • The role of bacterioplankton in the cycling of marine dissolved organic matter (DOM) is central to the carbon and energy balance in the ocean, yet there are few model organisms available to investigate the genes, metabolic pathways, and biochemical mechanisms involved in the degradation of this globally important carbon pool. To obtain microbial isolates capable of degrading semi-labile DOM for growth, we conducted dilution to extinction cultivation experiments using seawater enriched with high molecular weight (HMW) DOM. In total, 93 isolates were obtained. Amendments using HMW DOM to increase the dissolved organic carbon concentration 4x (280??M) or 10x (700??M) the ocean surface water concentrations yielded positive growth in 4-6% of replicate dilutions, whereas <1% scored positive for growth in non-DOM-amended controls. The majority (71%) of isolates displayed a distinct increase in cell yields when grown in increasing concentrations of HMW DOM. Whole-genome sequencing was used to screen the culture collection for purity and to determine the phylogenetic identity of the isolates. Eleven percent of the isolates belonged to the gammaproteobacteria including Alteromonadales (the SAR92 clade) and Vibrio. Surprisingly, 85% of isolates belonged to the methylotrophic OM43 clade of betaproteobacteria, bacteria thought to metabolically specialize in degrading C1 compounds. Growth of these isolates on methanol confirmed their methylotrophic phenotype. Our results indicate that dilution to extinction cultivation enriched with natural sources of organic substrates has a potential to reveal the previously unsuspected relationships between naturally occurring organic nutrients and the microorganisms that consume them.

publication date

  • December 2015