Cyanobacterial assimilatory nitrate reductase gene diversity in coastal and oligotrophic marine environments

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Cyanobacteria are important primary producers in many marine ecosystems and their abundances and growth rates depend on their ability to assimilate various nitrogen sources. To examine the diversity of nitrate-utilizing marine cyanobacteria, we developed PCR primers specific for cyanobacterial assimilatory nitrate reductase (narB) genes. We obtained amplification products from diverse strains of cultivated cyanobacteria and from several marine environments. Phylogenetic trees constructed with the narB gene are congruent with those based on ribosomal RNA genes and RNA polymerase genes. Analysis of sequence library data from coastal and oligotrophic marine environments shows distinct groups of Synechococcus sp. in each environment; some of which are represented by sequences from cultivated organisms and others that are unrelated to known sequences and likely represent novel phylogenetic groups. We observed spatial differences in the distribution of sequences between two sites in Monterey Bay and differences in the vertical distribution of sequence types at the Hawai'i Ocean Time-series Station ALOHA, suggesting that nitrogen assimilation in Synechococcus living in different ecological niches can be followed with the nitrate reductase gene. © 2006 The Authors.

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Environmental Microbiology