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Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology

From the shoreline to the deep ocean, tackling issues from pure ecology
and physiology to aquaculture, marine spatial planning and conservation.

Polymers excreted by marine bacteria: a role in enhancing iron bioavailability to phytoplankton

Marine phytoplankton are crucial to life on Earth. Like plants on land, these microscopic algae produce about half the O2 we breathe and fix almost as much of the CO2 from our atmosphere. Their study, therefore, is of great interest to scientists. The very low concentrations of soluble iron in the ocean can significantly limit phytoplankton growth. Although bacterial-produced siderophores perform a crucial role to promoting iron availability to phytoplankton, recently it has emerged that polymers excreted by marine bacteria can perform a similar and comparatively significant role.

Research by Tony Gutierrez has revealed that some types of bacterial polymers exhibit a high affinity for binding iron, and notably the formation of iron-polymer complexes promoted the growth of phytoplankton. Further work is planned to investigate these processes in more detail and reveal new information which could help feed into models of the oceanic iron cycle.

Key CMBB Reference: Gutierrez, T., Biller, D., Shimmield, T., Green, D.H. (2012) Metal binding properties of the EPS produced by Halomonas sp. TG39 and its potential in enhancing trace element bioavailability to eukaryotic phytoplankton. BioMetals, 25: 1185-1194.