Trichodesmium-derived dissolved organic matter is a source of nitrogen capable of supporting the growth of toxic red tide Karenia brevis

Rachel E. Sipler, Deborah A. Bronk, Sybil P. Seitzinger, Ronald J. Lauck, Lora R. McGuinness, Gary J. Kirkpatrick, Cynthia A. Heil, Lee J. Kerkhof, Oscar M. Schofield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) produced by the nitrogen-fixer Trichodesmium sp. has the potential to serve as a nitrogen source for the red tide dinoflagellate Karenia brevis. Dissolved organic matter (DOM) from laboratory cultures of Trichodesmium sp. was isolated, concentrated and then supplied as a nutrient source to K. brevis cells collected from the Gulf of Mexico. K. brevis abundance increased immediately after Trichodesmium sp. cellular exudate (TCE) addition, allowing the population to double within the first 24 h. There was rapid and complete utilization of the TCE DON as well as ~89% of the TCE dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP). Additionally, terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (TRFLP) was used to assess the bacterial community response to the addition of TCE. The number of bacterial operational taxonomic units (OTUs) initially increased after the TCE DOM addition, but decreased as K. brevis reached its maximum abundance. Electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) and Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS) were used to chemically characterize the DOM. Approximately 25% of compounds disappeared within the first 24 h, corresponding to the greatest increase in K. brevis abundance. Using FT-ICR MS, 391 DON and 219 DOP potentially bioavailable compounds were characterized. The bioavailable DON compounds were highly reduced and 44% had molar ratios indicative of lipid or protein-like compounds. The changes in DON concentration and compound composition show that Tricho desmium sp. provides a sufficient source of nitrogen to directly or indirectly support K. brevis blooms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-45
Number of pages15
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
StatePublished - May 30 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


  • DON
  • ESI-MS
  • Karenia brevis
  • Red tide
  • Trichodesmium

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