Dose-dependent regulation of microbial activity on sinking particles by polyunsaturated aldehydes: Implications for the carbon cycle. Academic Article uri icon


  • Diatoms and other phytoplankton play a crucial role in the global carbon cycle, fixing CO2 into organic carbon, which may then be exported to depth via sinking particles. The molecular diversity of this organic carbon is vast and many highly bioactive molecules have been identified. Polyunsaturated aldehydes (PUAs) are bioactive on various levels of the marine food web, and yet the potential for these molecules to affect the fate of organic carbon produced by diatoms remains an open question. In this study, the effects of PUAs on the natural microbial assemblages associated with sinking particles were investigated. Sinking particles were collected from 150 m in the water column and exposed to varying concentrations of PUAs in dark incubations over 24 h. PUA doses ranging from 1 to 10 µM stimulated respiration, organic matter hydrolysis, and cell growth by bacteria associated with sinking particles. PUA dosages near 100 µM appeared to be toxic, resulting in decreased bacterial cell abundance and metabolism, as well as pronounced shifts in bacterial community composition. Sinking particles were hot spots for PUA production that contained concentrations within the stimulatory micromolar range in contrast to previously reported picomolar concentrations of these compounds in bulk seawater. This suggests PUAs produced in situ stimulate the remineralization of phytoplankton-derived sinking organic matter, decreasing carbon export efficiency, and shoaling the average depths of nutrient regeneration. Our results are consistent with a "bioactivity hypothesis" for explaining variations in carbon export efficiency in the oceans.

publication date

  • May 12, 2015