Qualitative Determination of Exopolymeric Substances in Particle-Associated Bacteria from the Sargasso Sea
The biological carbon pump acts as part of the global carbon cycle through the photosynthetic fixation of inorganic carbon into dissolved and particulate organic carbon by phytoplankton. Previously, the biological carbon pump was attributed to large aggregates and zooplankton fecal pellets since their size and density results in faster sinking rates, efficiently exporting organic carbon to deeper depths in the ocean. However, recent studies have indicated that small cells, known as picoplankton, contribute significantly to the formation of sinking particles. The presence of exopolymeric substances (EPS), among them sticky transparent exopolymeric particles (TEP) and proteinaceous coomassie stainable particles (CSP), serve as influential factors of export flux and aggregation. The presence of heterotrophic bacteria can also affect aggregation and sinking velocity, as seen in previous studies, and is likely attributed to their EPS and TEP production. The staining and visualization of TEP and CSP allow for the qualitative determination of these types of EPS from bacteria isolated from sinking particles collected with particle interceptor traps at various depths in the Sargasso Sea. I study the presence of TEP and CSP in particle-associated bacteria. Cultures of picocyanobacteria, consisting of xenic Synechococcus and axenic Prochlorococcus, were used to establish positive and negative controls for stained isolate analysis. Marinobacter adhaerens served as a tertiary control for an axenic culture that stains positive for TEP. I chose six isolates of bacteria isolated from sinking particles to be stained and visualized to test for the secretion of TEP and CSP. Four of the isolates stained positive for both TEP and CSP, including Pseudoalteromonas sp., Erythrobacter sp., and Marinobacter sp., while one isolate, Micrococcus sp., stained positive only for TEP, and the last isolate, another Marinobacter sp., stained positive for only CSP. These results are important in understanding the role of plankton organisms in the formation of sinking particles.