Production of dissolved organic matter (DOM) by marine phytoplankton supplies the majority of organic substrate consumed by heterotrophic bacterioplankton in the sea. This production and subsequent consumption converts a vast quantity of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus between organic and inorganic forms, directly impacting global cycles of these biologically important elements. Details regarding the chemical composition of DOM produced by marine phytoplankton are sparse, and while often assumed, it is not currently known if phylogenetically distinct groups of marine phytoplankton release characteristic suites of DOM. To investigate the relationship between specific phytoplankton groups and the DOM they release, hydrophobic phytoplankton-derived dissolved organic matter (DOMP) from eight axenic strains was analyzed using high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS). Identification of DOM features derived from Prochlorococcus, Synechococcus, Thalassiosira, and Phaeodactylum revealed DOMP to be complex and highly strain dependent. Connections between DOMP features and the phylogenetic relatedness of these strains were identified on multiple levels of phylogenetic distance, suggesting that marine phytoplankton produce DOM that in part reflects its phylogenetic origin. Chemical information regarding the size and polarity ranges of features from defined biological sources was also obtained. Our findings reveal DOMP composition to be partially conserved among related phytoplankton species, and implicate marine DOM as a potential factor influencing microbial diversity in the sea by acting as a link between autotrophic and heterotrophic microbial community structures.
Keywords: Phaeodactylum; Prochlorococcus; Synechococcus; Thalassiosira; dissolved organic matter; exometabolome; marine phytoplankton; untargeted metabolomics.