Beyond the Calvin cycle: autotrophic carbon fixation in the ocean. Academic Article uri icon


  • Organisms capable of autotrophic metabolism assimilate inorganic carbon into organic carbon. They form an integral part of ecosystems by making an otherwise unavailable form of carbon available to other organisms, a central component of the global carbon cycle. For many years, the doctrine prevailed that the Calvin-Benson-Bassham (CBB) cycle is the only biochemical autotrophic CO2 fixation pathway of significance in the ocean. However, ecological, biochemical, and genomic studies carried out over the last decade have not only elucidated new pathways but also shown that autotrophic carbon fixation via pathways other than the CBB cycle can be significant. This has ramifications for our understanding of the carbon cycle and energy flow in the ocean. Here, we review the recent discoveries in the field of autotrophic carbon fixation, including the biochemistry and evolution of the different pathways, as well as their ecological relevance in various oceanic ecosystems.

publication date

  • 2011