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Antarctica polynyas support intense phytoplankton blooms, impacting their environment by a substantial depletion of inorganic carbon and nutrients. These blooms are dominated by the colony-forming haptophyte Phaeocystis antarctica and they are accompanied by a distinct bacterial population. Yet, the ecological role these bacteria may play in P. antarctica blooms awaits elucidation of their functional gene pool and of the geochemical activities they support. Here, we report on a metagenome (῀160 million reads) analysis of the microbial community associated with a P. antarctica bloom event in the Amundsen Sea polynya (West Antarctica). Genomes of the most abundant Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria populations have been reconstructed and a network analysis indicates a strong functional partitioning of these bacterial taxa. Three of them (SAR92, and members of the Oceanospirillaceae and Cryomorphaceae) are found in close association with P. antarctica colonies. Distinct features of their carbohydrate, nitrogen, sulfur and iron metabolisms may serve to support mutualistic relationships with P. antarctica. The SAR92 genome indicates a specialization in the degradation of fatty acids and dimethylsulfoniopropionate (compounds released by P. antarctica) into dimethyl sulfide, an aerosol precursor. The Oceanospirillaceae genome carries genes that may enhance algal physiology (cobalamin synthesis). Finally, the Cryomorphaceae genome is enriched in genes that function in cell or colony invasion. A novel pico-eukaryote, Micromonas related genome (19.6 Mb, ~94% completion) was also recovered. It contains the gene for an anti-freeze protein, which is lacking in Micromonas at lower latitudes. These draft genomes are representative for abundant microbial taxa across the Southern Ocean surface.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.