Rapid bacterioplankton transcription cascades regulate organic matter utilization during phytoplankton bloom progression in a coastal upwelling system

ISME J. 2022 Oct;16(10):2360-2372. doi: 10.1038/s41396-022-01273-0. Epub 2022 Jul 8.


Coastal upwelling zones are hotspots of oceanic productivity, driven by phytoplankton photosynthesis. Bacteria, in turn, grow on and are the principal remineralizers of dissolved organic matter (DOM) produced in aquatic ecosystems. However, the molecular processes that key bacterial taxa employ to regulate the turnover of phytoplankton-derived DOM are not well understood. We therefore carried out comparative time-series metatranscriptome analyses of bacterioplankton in the Northwest Iberian upwelling system, using parallel sampling of seawater and mesocosms with in situ-like conditions. The mesocosm experiment uncovered a taxon-specific progression of transcriptional responses from bloom development (characterized by a diverse set of taxa in the orders Cellvibrionales, Rhodobacterales, and Pelagibacterales), over early decay (mainly taxa in the Alteromonadales and Flavobacteriales), to senescence phases (Flavobacteriales and Saprospirales taxa). Pronounced order-specific differences in the transcription of glycoside hydrolases, peptidases, and transporters were found, supporting that functional resource partitioning is dynamically structured by temporal changes in available DOM. In addition, comparative analysis of mesocosm and field samples revealed a high degree of metabolic plasticity in the degradation and uptake of carbohydrates and nitrogen-rich compounds, suggesting these gene systems critically contribute to modulating the stoichiometry of the labile DOM pool. Our findings suggest that cascades of transcriptional responses in gene systems for the utilization of organic matter and nutrients largely shape the fate of organic matter on the time scales typical of upwelling-driven phytoplankton blooms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aquatic Organisms
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Carbohydrates
  • Ecosystem*
  • Glycoside Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Peptide Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Phytoplankton* / metabolism


  • Carbohydrates
  • Glycoside Hydrolases
  • Peptide Hydrolases
  • Nitrogen