Distribution of Roseobacter RCA and SAR11 Lineages and Distinct Bacterial Communities From the Subtropics to the Southern Ocean

Environ Microbiol. 2009 Aug;11(8):2164-78. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2009.01942.x.


We assessed the composition of the bacterioplankton in the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean in austral fall and winter and in New Zealand coastal waters in summer. The various water masses between the subtropics/Agulhas-Benguela boundary region and the Antarctic coastal current exhibited distinct bacterioplankton communities with the highest richness in the polar frontal region, as shown by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis of 16S rRNA gene fragments. The SAR11 clade and the Roseobacter clade-affiliated (RCA) cluster were quantified by real-time quantitative PCR. SAR11 was detected in all samples analysed from subtropical waters to the coastal current and to depths of > 1000 m. In fall and winter, this clade constituted < 3% to 48% and 4-28% of total bacterial 16S rRNA genes respectively, with highest fractions in subtropical to polar frontal regions. The RCA cluster was only present in New Zealand coastal surface waters not exceeding 17 degrees C, in the Agulhas-Benguela boundary region (visited only during the winter cruise), in subantarctic waters and in the Southern Ocean. In fall, this cluster constituted up to 36% of total bacterial 16S rRNA genes with highest fractions in the Antarctic coastal current and outnumbered the SAR11 clade at most stations in the polar frontal region and further south. In winter, the RCA cluster constituted lower proportions than the SAR11 clade and did not exceed 8% of total bacterial 16S rRNA genes. In fall, the RCA cluster exhibited significant positive correlations with latitude and ammonium concentrations and negative correlations with concentrations of nitrate, phosphate, and for near-surface samples also with chlorophyll a, biomass production of heterotrophic prokaryotes and glucose turnover rates. The findings show that the various water masses between the subtropics and the Antarctic coastal current harbour distinct bacterioplankton communities. They further indicate that the RCA cluster, despite the narrow sequence similarity of > 98% of its 16S rRNA gene, is an abundant component of the heterotrophic bacterioplankton in the Southern Ocean, in particular in its coldest regions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Base Sequence
  • Geography
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Phylogeny
  • Plankton / classification*
  • Plankton / growth & development
  • Plankton / isolation & purification
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Roseobacter / classification*
  • Roseobacter / growth & development
  • Roseobacter / isolation & purification
  • Seawater / microbiology*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

Associated data

  • GENBANK/DQ489286
  • GENBANK/EU496895
  • GENBANK/EU496896
  • GENBANK/EU496897
  • GENBANK/EU496898
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  • GENBANK/EU496915
  • GENBANK/EU795712
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