Release of bacterial DNA by marine nanoflagellates, an intermediate step in phosphorus regeneration

Valentina Turk, Ann-Sofi Rehnstam, Erik Lundberg, Åke Hagström

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The concentrations of dissolved DNA and nanoflagellates were found to covary during a study of diel dynamics of the microbial food web in the Adriatic Sea. This observation was further investigated in a continuous seawater culture when nanoflagellates were fed bacteria grown in filtered seawater. Analysis of dissolved organic phosphorus and dissolved DNA showed a sixfold increase of dissolved DNA in the presence of the nanoflagellates (Ochromonas sp.). The amount of DNA released suggested that the majority of the consumed bacterial DNA was ejected. Phagotrophic nanoflagellates thus represent an important source of origin for dissolved DNA. The rate of breakdown of dissolved DNA and release of inorganic phosphorus in the pelagic ecosystem is suggested to be dependent on the ambient phosphate pool. In the P-limited northern Adriatic Sea, rapid degradation of the labelled DNA could be demonstrated, whereas the N-limited southern California bight water showed a much lower rate. Phosphorus originating from dissolved DNA was shown to be transferred mainly to organisms in the <3-μm-size fractions. On the basis of the C/P ratios, we suggest that a significant fraction of the phosphorus demand by the autotrophs may be sustained by the released DNA during stratified conditions. Thus, the nucleic acid-rich bacterial biomass grazed by protozoa plays an important role in the biogeochemical cycling of phosphorus in the marine environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3744-3750
Number of pages6
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Microbiology (10606)


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