Cyanobacteria and cyanophage contributions to carbon and nitrogen cycling in an oligotrophic oxygen-deficient zone. Academic Article uri icon


  • Up to half of marine N losses occur in oxygen-deficient zones (ODZs). Organic matter flux from productive surface waters is considered a primary control on N2 production. Here we investigate the offshore Eastern Tropical North Pacific (ETNP) where a secondary chlorophyll a maximum resides within the ODZ. Rates of primary production and carbon export from the mixed layer and productivity in the primary chlorophyll a maximum were consistent with oligotrophic waters. However, sediment trap carbon and nitrogen fluxes increased between 105 and 150?m, indicating organic matter production within the ODZ. Metagenomic and metaproteomic characterization indicated that the secondary chlorophyll a maximum was attributable to the cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus, and numerous photosynthesis and carbon fixation proteins were detected. The presence of chemoautotrophic ammonia-oxidizing archaea and the nitrite oxidizer Nitrospina and detection of nitrate oxidoreductase was consistent with cyanobacterial oxygen production within the ODZ. Cyanobacteria and cyanophage were also present on large (>30??m) particles and in sediment trap material. Particle cyanophage-to-host ratio exceeded 50, suggesting that viruses help convert cyanobacteria into sinking organic matter. Nitrate reduction and anammox proteins were detected, congruent with previously reported N2 production. We suggest that autochthonous organic matter production within the ODZ contributes to N2 production in the offshore ETNP.

publication date

  • June 27, 2019